Political correctness is supposed to help us avoid offending people. I don’t generally give a flying fart if I’m offensive. I am not politically correct. I’m sometimes loud. I talk about sex, politics, and religion–often at the dinner table and sometimes when I’m a guest in someone’s home. I swear. I’ve been accused of mocking religion and I laugh at things Bill Mahar says. So when I call out certain talk or behavior, it’s probably not because I’m offended; it’s because I’m genuinely concerned about dangers related to said behavior. I think some of it is downright reckless.
RECKLESS BEHAVIOR #1 — Using sexist language & using “girl” as an insult
When a father tells his son to man up or stop acting like a girl, the trouble is not just the message it sends to his son (being a girl = bad, so don’t be girly), but also what it says to his daughter: that being a girl is simply not as good as being a boy. No matter what she does, she will always have a strike against her through no choice or fault 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. Therefore, it’s not important to listen to their mother or respect her. And they certainly don’t have to respect female teachers, police officers, bosses, or strangers on the street.
I never want to be called the funniest Indian female comedian that exists. I feel like I can go head-to-head with the best white, male comedy writers that are out there. Why would I want to self-categorize myself into a smaller group than I’m able to compete in? –Mindy Kaling
RECKLESS BEHAVIOR #2 — Using racial slurs & making racist jokes
There are rules in comedy about which groups can be picked on. It’s bad form for groups in power to pick on those with less power (but the reverse can be acceptable, often because first group has already created a divide.). Also, only members of certain racial or ethnic groups can say certain terms. (Whether or not anyone should say such things is a different issue altogether). Remember how Michael Scott didn’t get why it’s not okay for him to recite a Chris Rock bit? Luckily, many people do understand the limits even if they’re not sure why they’re in place.
Most of the time, when majority or powerful groups disrespect people outside their group, it mainly serves to demonstrate insecurity and the desire to maintain the upper hand. [Like this example of how white students mocked nonwhites at a 70% white high school.] Even playful uses of terms and jokes are often used to create or maintain someone’s status as The Other. Those People. Us and Them.
Think of times when you’ve heard variations on these ideas:
- They are not like us.
- They only got this far because of affirmative action.
- They aren’t moral.
- They eat weird foods.
- They have weird traditions.
- They don’t share our values.
- They are sluts.
- They are taking our jobs.
- They don’t pay taxes/ They are looking for handouts/ They hate the rich/They blame us for our success.
- They drink too much.
- They are all involved in organized crime.
- They’re lazy/ smelly/ stupid/ oversexed/ dangerous.
Each one of these ideas translates to “I wish to maintain the status quo. If other people are treated better, there might not be as much good stuff for me. I enjoy coasting. I don’t want more competition for the stuff I like and I certainly don’t want to have to work harder.”
RECKLESS BEHAVIOR #3– Using “Muslim” & “terrorist” interchangeably
Radicals in all arenas are just that: radical. They wreck stuff for everyone because of stereotypes, which are seldom born through quiet, mellow people (see below). When Islamophobia is spread, people are unfairly targeted, especially women. Muslim women who cover their hair stand out, sometimes harassed and/or beaten. Shortly after the Boston Marathon, a man repeatedly punched a woman in the back who was walking on a sidewalk in Boston. College students in Texas were beaten while being called “terrorists” and “evil.” A man was beaten in the Bronx on Monday night in front of an Applebee’s. An Applebee’s! What a terrible place to be beaten, and just for having brown skin. (Of course, the fact that the bombers have since been described as “light skinned white men” is beside the point.)
RECKLESS BEHAVIOR #4 Perpetuating stereotypes
Stereotypes are bad for the stereotyped and the stereotyper.
It’s not fair to prejudge someone based on experience with (or hearsay of) someone else with a shared characteristic. Everyone deserves a chance to be treated and known as an individual. This is also why the “One of my closest friends is __________” trope is so grating. People read that as, “I can excuse my own propensity for stereotyping because luckily, I found the one _______ who isn’t ________ that I can pull out as a token on occasions like this.”
Stereotyping is a shortcut, and like all shortcuts, stereotyping often ends up costing much more time than it would take to do something right in the first place. And you know what? Positive stereotypes are just as dangerous. It’s not fair to expect people to live up to imaginary standards.
Homer: Listen, do you want the job done right, or do you want it done fast?
Marge: Well, like all Americans, fast . . .
Imagine all the friends and experiences people miss out on because of assumptions! Conversely, imagine all the bad hiring decisions and dates that have taken place because of assumptions.
I’m just as guilty as the next human. Did I ever tell you about the time I agreed to hang out with a guy who I thought was gay? He was a regular at the place I worked. One cold Minneapolis evening, I was on a date and didn’t know it. So when he invited me up to his apartment to look at his plants, I said yes because I genuinely wanted to see them. This was apparently code: glaringly obvious code. So while I was admiring his orchids and he tried to kiss me, I laughed–mostly at myself because I was surprised by my appallingly inaccurate gaydar. I had plenty of time to think about what I’d done on the long walk back to my car.
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.
* * *
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?
Dez Bryant, first draft pick for the Dallas Cowboys, was subjected to some pretty gross misogynistic questions during a pre-draft interview with Miami Dolphins general manager, Jeff Ireland. Ireland asked Bryant if his mother is a prostitute and if she “still does drugs.” Now there are articles, TV news stories, and op/ed pieces discussing personal details of Bryant’s mother’s life. I won’t link to any here, because I don’t want to be a party to this privacy invasion, but you’ll find some on your own easily enough by googling, should you so desire.
I’m certain there’s something racist going on here (I mean, there’s just gotta be), but more blatantly, Ireland has made Bryant the victim of sexism against women first-hand. I mean, what gain is there for Ireland in this line of questioning? If Bryant’s mother were a prostitute or a drug user, what does that mean for the NFL team that picks him up? Does that mean he’s worth less than a player with similar stats? Does that mean the other players get to haze him harder, snap him with wetter towels? There is no point to these questions other than to simply belittle Bryant through his mother. And that makes him and his mother victims of misogyny.
I don’t want to read or hear another feminist say that men are not victims of sexism.
Oh, and Ireland apologized to Bryant for his “poor judgment.” As if that matters.
This week, my good friend David Ellis Dickerson commented on a feminist blog entry against Boobquake. He was castrated (figuratively of course). I came to his defense, and was attacked with perhaps as much ferocity for defending a man. It was like I was evil to point of Nazi sympathizer, suggesting that a man had a valid point about a feminist issue. I mean, yeah, Dave should have known you can’t tell a radical feminist to “lighten the fuck up.” But in his defense, he didn’t lay that on her until the fifth paragraph, and had made lots of good points in defense of Boobquake first. You can read the whole shebang here. (My favorite was the woman who called him a “mainplaining dood.”) At this moment, the writer of the original post, “marybullstonecraft” has made nice with Dave, but some of the other participants in the discussion are still very angry that he (a man) voiced his opinion (an opinion that didn’t match theirs) on this feminist blog. The thing is, his opinion, although for Boobquake instead of against it, was a feminist response that would not have ignited such anger if the name associated with his comments had been Diana Ellis Dickerson instead.
I hate that some of these feminist women have this knee-jerk reaction to men. One even told me that men can’t be victims of sexism. Really? How can that be?
Most men have women in their lives. Many men were raised by women, maybe grew up with sisters, have women and girls as friends and relatives, have chosen to create lives with women. Lives are interconnected, plain and simple. Whenever a woman is ill-treated, everyone around her suffers on her behalf, unless she bravely keeps it under wraps (and even if she keeps it inside, it will take its toll). When a woman is denied a raise, her family’s quality of life suffers. When a woman is denied a job, her family’s quality of life suffers even more. When a woman is denied medical care or coverage . . . well, you get the idea.
A woman saying that a man can’t or shouldn’t speak up about feminism is counter-productive and just plain inaccurate. It’s like saying Sarah McLachlan has no right to speak on behalf of the animals because she’s not a dog. Or that I can’t be angry about racism because I’m white. Sarah can be an animal activist and I can refuse to shop at stores run by racist shopowners because this is my world too. This is the world that I live in, and I don’t want it to be a racist, sexist, or abusive place. So my friend Dave, and all men who so desire, should be welcomed with the warmest of hugs into feminism. The current cold, hateful attitudes held by some feminists towards men is not only counter-productive, it’s confusing to me. It’s doctrinaire and strict, and makes feminism seem like it’s only for radical man-haters, which makes men and women, especially young women, hesitant to identify with feminism. Anti-male attitudes are no different than the Augusta Golf Club’s policies. And if it’s true that men’s attitudes are still held in higher regard than women’s, in general, then why in the world would any movement want to silence the members with the most clout? (I’m only half-joking with that question).
So what to do? There’s no easy answer. For tops, feminist women, I implore you to rethink your anti-male attitudes if you’ve got them. Argue with them when the situation warrants it, call them on their sexism if they’re showing some, but be willing to listen to them, too. Learn to detect when the good ones are around. Don’t just assume every man is a “dood” who is “mansplaining” something to you. These dismissive comments are no more constructive than when a man calls a woman a “bitch.”
Men, women, and girls who believe in equality, please recognize that you are a feminist. Believing in equality– Yes!– that’s all it takes to be a feminist. Don’t be afraid to tell people. Consider this: you know how the Republican Party has been hijacked by the Christian Right, Fox viewers, birthers, and now Tea Partiers? We perceive them as complete whackadoodles, right? The moderates are being silenced for not being conservative enough; they’re dismissed as RINOs. How many of those moderate Republicans can you name? (I can name Meghan McCain, who is not a politician, and Christine Todd Whitman, who’s been out of politics for years). So just like how the Republican Party wouldn’t seem so loco if the moderates reclaimed their party, if more of us sane, reasonable feminists called ourselves feminists, loudly and proudly, the movement overall wouldn’t seem so extreme.
Remember, it’s the Sarah Palins and the Michele Bachmanns that get the attention, but we need to remind people that the radicals are the exception, not the norm. Only a handful of feminists are man-haters. Only a handful of feminists are bullldykes. Only a handful of feminists aim to silence every other voice but their own. Only a handful of feminists are militant. Being a feminist is not an ugly thing. COMON GIRLS! Let’s be positive, proud, and inviting.
My very good friend Carrie is an awesome reporter, friend, and one the kindest people I’ve ever met. Well, it turns out, I was wrong: she’s actually a whore with nice tits! Sometimes, I need the genius thinktank that is the Internet to break things down for me.
If you read through the comments, you might be able to tell what my super-secret handle is. (I’m kidding- I’m GeekMagnet27). I know, I know, I shouldn’t argue with fuckheads and I shouldn’t feed the trolls, but when someone refers to my friend as a whore (and my favorite, a “dike”) not responding is simply not an option.
What does that say about us that a woman can’t be in an AP story (a story that has nothing to do with prostitution) without being called a whore? Here is another example of the misogyny in our culture that gives us yet another retort for the next time someone tries to tell us that “feminism has happened.”