Archive for the ‘Sexism’ Tag

Uber-Privileged Feminists Say “F*ck You!” to Low Income Women   4 comments

And to lesbians and to immigrant women and really to anyone who isn’t wealthy, straight, white, and preferably male and Christian. Because that’s what you’re doing when you’re supporting the presidential aspirations of anti-feminist wingnut Michele “Kill the Poor” Bachmann. And yes, The New Agenda, a nonpartisan women’s activist group, is actually urging women to vote for Bachmann, or Palin, should she throw her hat in the ring.

For those not familiar with this organization’s history, The New Agenda was founded by former Wall Street executive Amy Siskind in the aftermath of the 2008 election. Siskind, a longtime Democrat, supported Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Primary and, like many of us, was appalled by the sexist treatment of first Clinton, then Palin. And so The New Agenda was created to combat sexism and elect more women to political office. Laudable objectives to be sure, except for one thing: The politics of the women they champion appear to be irrelevant; simply being equipped with a vagina is all it takes to win the support of The New Agenda.

As a result, Siskind’s organization routinely supports conservative candidates whose policies do enormous harm to huge segments of the female population. Such as South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley who championed the nation’s toughest photo ID law in an effort to disenfranchise low income voters (who tend to vote Democratic). Cheering on Bachmann, however, is a little surprising, even for The New Agenda.

For one, Bachmann is an outspoken anti-feminist who believes wives must obey their husbands. But no worries! Siskind explains that while Bachmann may not be a feminist, she’s definitely “pro-woman”! In fact, feminism is kinda passé; the new “pro-woman” movement is where it’s at!
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When Hate and Bigotry Are Considered Cutting-Edge Entertainment   1 comment

I bet you know the answer to this one: When are hate and bigotry considered cutting-edge, forward-thinking entertainment? When the targets are women, of course! I was going to write about this post at Feministe in which a male guest blogger twists himself into a pretzel trying to justify the violence-soaked misogyny of a rap crew he likes, but I see the Red Queen has already beaten me to it. So I’ll talk a bit about the incredibly positive reception outspoken misogynists bigots like Odd Future get from the predominantly male journalists at the New York Times, The Guardian, The Village Voice and other so-called “serious” publications.

For those who don’t know, Odd Future lyrics go way beyond the now-accepted-as-mainstream notion of women as bitches and hos who exist only to be fucked and need to be slapped around sometimes. Most Odd Future tracks dwell in graphic detail on the kidnapping, rape, torture, and murder of women bitches. And yet countless dudes who consider themselves progressive and claim to abhor bigotry are engaging in Olympian mental gymnastics to come up with reasons the creators of this hate are not only decent guys but important artistes.

For instance, when group leader Tyler says that rape is fun, that is “likely a metaphor for something else.” Why? Because no one could possibly think rape is fun? Newsflash: One in four women in the US will experience a completed or attempted rape. There are a lot of men who think rape is fun. They’re called rapists. Or perhaps these enlightened dudes just can’t see someone whose music (or movies or books or athletic performance) they like as a rapist. Rapists are 100% unadulterated evil with zero positive characteristics. I guess that’s why they’re always lurking in bushes wearing ski masks; everyone would immediately recognize their evil rapeyness if they showed their faces. How could someone as “undeniably charismatic” and “irrepressibly goofy” as twenty-year-old Tyler possibly be a rapist? Oh, I don’t know. It’s not like there’s a connection between rape and viewing women as subhuman fuckholes. Or between rapists and sociopathic assholes who think the damage they do is irrelevant as long as they’re having a good time.

I don’t know whether the man whose hate-drenched lyrics advocate the rape and torture of people like me really commits such acts. I do know that this type of violent bigotry set to a seductive beat has real-life consequences. Very bad ones. Advertisers spend billions of dollars every year on TV commercials to influence behavior. Why? Because that shit works. Yet there are those who argue with a straight face that music they consider far more powerful than any corny commercial does not influence behavior?!? It’s bullshit and I suspect they know it.
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What Kids Learn When They Don’t Learn About Patriarchy   2 comments

“Boys and girls are equals,” we tell kids, and then we send them to school to learn about presidents and emperors and generals and religious leaders and explorers and astronauts and civil rights activists and revolutionaries and judges and scientists and inventors and philosophers and composers and painters and sculptors and poets and novelists–almost all of whom were men. Of course kids can’t help but wonder how it is that men achieved so much and women so little. Did women try to accomplish great things as much as men but weren’t smart enough, talented enough, driven enough, strong enough, good enough? Or perhaps women were perfectly content to be wives and mothers because women are meant to raise sons and support husbands who do great, important things instead of doing great, important things themselves?

If we don’t teach kids the truth about our history, those are the type of conclusions they’ll draw. The truth, of course, is that for thousands of years, women were chattel. A girl was her father’s property from birth. When she reached a certain age, she was given or sold to another man in an arrangement called marriage. Her purpose in life was to serve her family (first her father’s, then her husband’s) and bear her husband’s–preferably male–children. She had no choice in the matter, and her owner/husband was socially and legally empowered to beat and rape her if she disobeyed his orders or attempted to resist his sexual advances. Even murder was often permissible, particularly if her husband could argue convincingly that she was an adulteress.

Unlike boys, girls were not raised to be individuals with interests and aspirations of their own. The goals of a woman’s father or husband became her goals. The traits valued in men–intellect, creativity, curiosity, leadership, courage, ambition, self-determination, individuality, independence, and so on–weren’t valued in women. A woman’s life revolved around serving her family–particularly its male members–and her value was in her sexual attractiveness and reproductive capacity. The “good woman” was obedient, nurturing, chaste, and above all, selfless. Women had no access to political power (including voting rights), higher education (go back far enough and most women were deprived of even an elementary education), the marketplace (outside of prostitution and a few low status, low pay positions), or the world of ideas (not only were women considered incapable of all but the most rudimentary logical and analytical reasoning, but depending on the time period, women who dared to challenge the status quo ran the risk of being shunned, killed, or institutionalized and lobotomized). A woman wasn’t able to sign contracts or own property because she was property. A crime against her was literally considered a crime against the man who owned her–her father if she was unmarried or her husband if she was married.
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Why I Despise Gender Essentialism (Part 1)   3 comments

Let’s cut to the chase: I abhor gender essentialism and not just in the abstract sense that this stuff hurts women as a class (though it does and that would certainly be reason enough to detest this type of biological determinism). My reasons, however, are personal as much as they are political. My life has been marred by extreme violence and abuse, body image issues, anorexia, addiction, and severe depression. I spent much of my teen years hating myself and wanting to die. But it wasn’t always like that. As a little girl, I was an entirely different person. Happy, confident, curious, a natural leader. What happened, you ask? Gender happened. Specifically, being forced into the female gender role. You know, the one that should have come naturally, given that I was born female and all.

In this post and the next, I’ll be discussing gender essentialism–the belief that women are one way and men are another way and these differences are the result of biology, not socialization–and the damage done to girls when they are forced into the female gender straightjacket. Unfortunately proponents of gender essentialism are everywhere. And it’s not just conservatives, MRAs and evo psych adherents (lots of overlap there) who believe that men and women are inherently different due to biologically determined gender roles. Recently I’ve come across several self-described feminists and feminist allies seemingly invested in denying that gender is a social construct. My guess is that most people believe, more or less strongly, that at least some gender differences (not to be confused with sex differences though they frequently are) are innate. This is very much the mainstream view, which is why it’s so annoying when those who subscribe to it pretend they’re courageously speaking an unpopular truth that some of us ladies just don’t want to accept.

And why would women be particularly reluctant to accept an essentialist view of gender? Duh! Because while the gender binary is limiting for men as well, in a patriarchal society (and which society isn’t?) it’s far more limiting for women. Gender essentialism has been used to advocate, explain, and excuse the oppression of women for eons, what with us being “naturally” passive, submissive, emotional, illogical, helpless, nurturing, self-sacrificing, dependent, peace-loving, and all that.
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Blonde Privilege My Ass   2 comments

I just learned about a new privilege I have: blonde privilege (no, I ain’t linking that crap; go Google if you must). It’s true; my hair is naturally blonde. Light blonde even. Now let me tell you how great it was to grow up with all that blonde privilege.

First, there was the steady flow of dumb blonde jokes ranging from the idiotically sexist to the viciously misogynistic with such hilarious punchlines as the one about women who look like me being too dumb to know when we’re being raped. I know, right? That’s a real thigh-slapper. Particularly when told to a girl who’s both blonde and a rape victim. Hearing that shit on the radio or TV was bad enough, but it was even worse when people I knew, supposed friends even, told such “jokes” right in front of me, expecting me to do what? Laugh?

Then there were the wonderful assumptions many people routinely made about my intelligence and supposed shallowness. Not only was I often presumed to be dumb unless and until I repeatedly provided evidence to the contrary, but lots of people also figured I had neither knowledge of, nor interest in “serious” stuff like politics, law, environmentalism, and social justice movements. Because everyone knows that girls who look like me are airheads who are all about fashion and guys and parties and shopping.

Another huge advantage of being blonde was the type of guys I attracted. Thank goddess I have small breasts or I would have hit the trifecta. Still, talk about being a magnet for the biggest assholes around, the type of guys who think of their girlfriends as trophies. When I was too young to know better, I actually dated a couple of guys who introduced me to their friends like a prized possession while I stood there wishing the earth would swallow me. Meanwhile the progressive and alternative dudes I was interested in thought they were “protesting” mainstream culture with its constant messages that all guys prefer blondes by NOT being into blondes. It wasn’t until I was a little older that I realized any guy who thought a woman’s hair color was this important wasn’t worth my time.
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Redefining Privilege into Meaninglessness   5 comments

A recent post at Racialicious alerted me to the fact that white women don’t just have regular old white privilege (indisputably true), but that we also possess white female privilege, which, in some situations, privileges us even over white males.

How does this white female privilege manifest itself? Well, it turns out that the majority of items on the White Female Privilege list are simply examples of straight up white privilege. But there are a few that are indeed specific to women.

For instance, did you know that many dudes think we’re so emotionally fragile and overwrought that we’re liable to burst into tears at any moment? These guys are so terrified of provoking a crying jag (described as the “sheer fear of tears”) that they’ll do anything not to upset us. And that’s an enormous privilege we can use to our advantage.

Okay, first, I don’t know how many dudes actually think that (white) women are this fragile, and of those who do, how many would get a kick out of making women cry? But even if I’m wrong and fear of “white lady tears” is actually a common phenomenon (maybe it’s a class thing?), I question whether privilege is the right word for it. Most women I know try to avoid public tears at all costs. No matter how much we’re hurting, we try to hold it together. That’s because our tears are not only perceived as a sign of weakness, which is bad enough, but they can also be seen as manipulative in a way male tears aren’t.
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Street Harassment: The Privileged Victim   3 comments

Nancy Leong’s Harassment in the Intersection: Gender, Race, and Class in the Street at Feminist Law Professors echoes many of the sentiments expressed in the Feministe discussion on legislating against street harassment, specifically the idea that the women victimized by street harassment are usually more privileged than the men harassing them.

The assumption is that the typical victim of street harassment is a middle or upper class white woman and the typical harasser is a poor, possibly homeless or mentally ill, man of color. “Think of those who spend the most time in the street,” writes Leong, as she asks us to picture the typical perpetrators of street harassment. What neither she nor the Feministe thread mention is that this applies to the victims of harassment as well. Poor women, who are disproportionately racial minorities, are considerably more likely to experience frequent street harassment because they spend more time in the street and on public transportation. They are less likely to own a car, and cabs are out of the question when you’re poor. That means lots of walking and taking buses and subways, all of which expose women to harassment.

That has certainly been my experience. When I first moved to NYC, I was very poor. So poor, in fact, that I walked almost everywhere. As a result, I spent a lot of time in the street. The harassment was relentless. Walking even one block without commentary of some sort seemed to be too much to ask. I was harassed by men of all races, ages, and classes. Boys who looked like they were in junior high and men old enough to be my great grandfather. Wall Street types and construction workers. The only thing they all had in common was that they were male; therefore they felt very much entitled to let me know what they thought of me and what they would like to do to me.
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