Feminism

How to deal with hatred and misrepresentation

Posted in Ask Men, Feminism, What the what? on August 27th, 2010 by steph – 7 Comments

Finally, there is hope for all those people in my life who, for so long now, have been saying “I just don’t know how to deal with her. How do I deal with an angry feminist???”. Hallelujah, an answer is finally here! Hopefully the haters are taking notes. (I have to point out this this advice is proferred by a woman, which is another level of terrible on top of the terrible sandwich it already is).

Where to begin with this ridiculous piece of rubbish?

Feminism is a great thing. As a movement, it has allowed women to be seen as people every bit as worthy and deserving of the privileges that men enjoy. Women still don’t earn as much income as men in comparable occupations and there is still a tendency to think that women belong in the kitchen, but the feminists that have fought for equality over the years have had a huge effect on gender roles in our society.

Feminism is cool, you guys. I like that it exalts the work of feminists who have fought wicked hard to be seen as human beings that deserve the same rights as men, then mentions some good examples of why this hasn’t actually happened. Without even a note of awareness of how funny this pairing of ideas is. Feminism has done so much! And women are treated decently now! Except in these two examples here, which negate my point.

While most women who identify as feminists these days are champions of equality, there is another type of feminist that despises anything male and claims that women are superior in every way. These man-hating feminists are rare and sometimes refer to themselves as “radical” or “militant.” We just think they’re angry. When you come across an angry feminist, you may find yourself instinctively shielding your balls while trying to figure out what to do next. AskMen has your guide to dealing with angry feminists.

Yeah, um, I don’t know if you got the memo that has been circulating for a good few years now, but hating men isn’t actually a tenet of feminism. Hating men kind of goes against the whole ‘wanting everyone, men and women, to get a fair and equal deal’. Busting out the tired old man-hater cliche? Ten points for originality!

Tip 1. : Don’t say you’re a feminist. Because that is her secret activation phrase, and will cause her to rip off your balls!

Don’t ever try to empathise with angry feminists by claiming that you are also a feminist. These women think that by simply being a man you are part of the oppressive male-dominated system that is keeping women down. So, even if you’ve always respected and loved the women in your life, the angry feminist will say that men are privileged in our society and, whether you actively choose it or not, you’re to blame for participating in the patriarchy.

The thing is, by being a man, you kind of are part of the system that is in place against women. Even good men who have loved and respected the women in their lives. We’re all part of the system, as much as we like to believe we are the pure and noble exception. And saying that the ‘angry feminist’ will respond by talking about how men are privileged in our society? Men are privileged in our society! Is that even up for debate?? Pointing out the flawed system, and how we too are all part of it (by virtue of existing in it) and are also flawed doesn’t make one some sort of militant. It is important to talk about these things, because this is how we start to change them. And another thing, saying that you’ve always loved and respected the women in your life? That doesn’t negate privilege. And, additionally, what you view as love and respect is easily shaped by what ‘the system’ views as loving and respectful behaviour towards women.  I know plenty of guys who say they respect women, and give an example of some sort of cliche “I’m good to ladies!” move which is more about what we are taught to believe respect looks like than it is about actual respect (and what that individual woman actually wants/needs).

Tip 2. Never ever EVER mention sex. Ever!

“…any mention of sex between a man and a woman, no matter how innocent, consensual or woman-centric, is likely to be twisted into a rape-inciting hate comment by an angry feminist. This type of feminist believes that any woman who wants and enjoys sex is contributing to the oppression of not just herself, but the entire female population. Yet, she will also argue that a society controlled by men stifles a woman’s right to express her sexuality. Pointing out the inherent contradiction in her argument will only result in her accusing you of being a rape supporter. Better to go find yourself one of those women who wishes to cement her submission to the big, bad patriarchy by allowing you to give her satisfying orgasms.”

You’re right, when someone says the word sex, feminists are really hearing RAPERAPERAPERAPE. There is so much wrong with this, starting with the fact that the promotion of sex-positivity is relentlessly promoted by feminists. Feminists generally like the idea of people having satisfying and consensual sex. Who wouldn’t like that idea? But sometimes, rape really is the issue. And sometimes the man might think he is talking about sex, but really he is talking about exploitation and manipulation and coercion and rape. So yeah, sometime the conversation is about rape. But a lot of the time, it’s about sex. If sex is really what is being talked about, it isn’t going to get “twisted into a rape-inciting hate comment”.

Also; a society controlled by men does stifle a woman’s right to express her sexuality. Again, why is this even up for debate? Why is this treated as the ludicrous hallucinations of a twisted mind? It’s simple: if one group has control over what another can do (thus dictating what is good and bad, admissible and not), then they are creating rules that hey, just might be stifling some people’s free expression. Whodathunkit? Acting like this is a silly feminist idea made up for laughs is trying to marginalize people who believe it, stifling another form of their expression too.

And  “better to go find yourself one of those women who wishes to cement her submission to the big, bad patriarchy by allowing you to give her satisfying orgasms” ? Yes, men ‘giving’ women orgasms is what feeds the patriarchy! We’ve been trying to tell everyone for all these years, but really our hearts weren’t in it, because orgasms are just so good. This is patronizing bullshit at it’s best. There are plenty of things that cement the big bad patriarchy, but having an orgasm with a man really doesn’t seem like the biggest thing we should be worried about. I mean, I know consensual sexual pleasure will bring down the empire and all that, but we’re a bit busy with rights to work, parent, choose, etc. We’ll deal with the orgasm thing later, and stamp out that dirty practice of ladies having orgasms with men all together. Sisters unite!

Tip 3. “Don’t prove her right”.

Angry feminists can be infuriating in their stubbornness and complete disregard for any sense of logic or reason. Yes, she’s trying to push your buttons, but don’t fall for it. If you say what you really want to say to her, you’ll just be stooping to her level. Don’t supply more evidence for her theory that all men suck by acting like an asshole. Stay calm and remember that common sense is on your side.

When she’s talking about a way in people treat feminists like garbage, don’t prove her right by saying something like, I don’t know, “You’re such an angry feminist!”, even though you totally think it. You’ll show her, yes indeedy.

Disregard for any sense of logic or reason? Bish please, that’s just unfounded. I’m pretty sure saying “See this observable thing in the world? The one that disadvantages people? Disadvantage is bad, thus this thing that causes it is bad” isn’t unreasonable. Common sense may not be on the side of feminists, according to this author, but it sure isn’t on her side either.

Tip 4. “Don’t be a bother”

Sometimes, the best way to deal with an angry feminist is to put your hands in the air and back away slowly. You will never win an argument with this woman, and trying will only get you labelled as an oppressive patriarchal pig. Best to save your common-sense arguments for someone who will actually listen to them and engage you in conversation instead of blaming your entire gender for everything that makes her life difficult.

Angry feminists are like bears, y’all! Big, dangerous bears! Or maybe tigers; yeah, tigers! Back away from them before you wake them from their slumber of man-hating dreams, and sink their teeth into your sexism-reinforcing self. (Except they wouldn’t actually sink their teeth into you, because that is soooooo evocative of penetration, and penetration is satan and Garth George all rolled into one).

You know what makes someone oppressive? Having to shit all over someone’s beliefs and pwn them in an argument by shouting them down. So, were you to do that, then yeah, I would call you oppressive. You aren’t always going to  “win” an argument, which is a lesson even children learn at some stage. We all lose sometimes.

I think what you mean by “find someone who will actually listen and engage in conversation” is find someone who will nod and smile while you talk about yourself and vainly stroke your taut, muscled chest. Because the feminists I know (even then angry ones, like me!) actually really love to engage in conversation. Reasonable, logical, passionate, emotional, angry, enthusiastic, open conversation. So I think maybe your dictionary is out of date or something. Maybe you should come over and we could have a conversation about it? I’ll bake cookies shaped like male genitalia so we can rip the balls off with our teeth.

This is how the article concludes:

For the record, not all feminists are angry. Some of them are perfectly reasonable people who simply believe in equality. Not even all radical or militant feminists are all that scary, but you are certainly more likely to find the mean, frightening, extreme ones among those that use those labels. When we hear the word “sexist,” we usually picture a guy who looks down on women, but don’t forget that there are women out there who think that men are the weaker sex and that revolution and world domination are the only logical responses to the paternalistic ideals of our time. These women are every bit as harmful and distasteful as misogynist men.

Brain explode from so much ridiculousness. First up, what’s with this hatred for being angry? Why is anger a bad thing? Or is it just bad when the angry person is a lady, or a feminist? Because I think anger is fine, and healthy, and often and awesome motivator for people to do something about things they feel are wrong (also great motivator for creating a blog!). And I think part of this is a conflation of anger with passion. Neither of these things is bad.

Apparently when we hear “sexist”, we think of a man who looks down on women. Well, yes. But there are a lot of people who say “But I love women! Some of my best friends are women!”, and this does not mean they aren’t sexist, not by a long shot. In fact, “I have female friends” is a fairly good indicator of sexism… Yes, sexim is looking down on women. But the problem is, a lot of people think that because they don’t hit their girlfriends or because they hired a female employee that they are bastions of awesome woman-love and respect. But sexism is sneaky, and subtle, pervasive and ingrained. So some people don’t really get how some things can be sexist because those things aren’t “that bad”, or because they “don’t mean anything”. The thing is, they do mean something. And this is why feminists are passionate, why they want to talk about problems: because problems, both big and little, exist; and people who say “I’m not sexist because I like women” exist; and people who say feminism, a movement about all people getting treated well, is as harmful as men who hate women, those people exist too.

“Keeper” and “changer” sound so dirty…

Posted in Feminism, marriage, name changing on August 22nd, 2010 by steph – Comments Off on “Keeper” and “changer” sound so dirty…

Apparently 77-95% of women (a large range in estimates there depending on the study, almost 20%!) change their names when they get married. This surprised me, but maybe it shouldn’t have. I suppose I assumed that because I personally wouldn’t change my name, that quite a lot of people I know (who are quite similar-minded) wouldn’t either. But I suppose it is seen as the norm for many people, and not something that there would even be a question about. The only married friend I know is a “changer”. Growing up, I always thought I would be because I hated my last name (and being teased by a boy with the last name McDonald-Bates; a name ripe for the mocking itself). It never crossed my mind to just get a legal name change; probably the idea that one grows up and gets married was such a ingrained concept to me (and many others…) that  I never considered any other method of name change. But at some point I got used to my name as it is, and I like the sound of it. Also, doing what I do, job-wise, means I am carving out a name for myself, and, as is brought up in the article, this can bring up the issue of “brand protection”.

It can be a surprisingly touchy issue; some people view a woman who chooses not to change her name as not being loyal or devoted enough to her husband. (A man isn’t expected to change his name to prove his loyalty or anything like that. Surely the whole process of getting married is kinda sorta meant to be symbolic of loyalty anyway, but whatevs. People also get all ‘think of the children!’ and collapse on their fainting couch worrying about what last name any children of the couple would have.

One of the things I noticed in this article is that not changing your last name is framed as the feminist choice, and something one would only be motivated to choose because of feminism (we feminists are always bucking tradition and norms!). But that’s misleading, because not only does it paint “keepers” as feminists (and we all know what that means: deviants, stirrers, all kinds of naughty bad things), but it paints “changers” as being women who are brainless, tradition-following sheep (but in a good way!). And I think either keeping or changing can be the feminist option here, because the feminist choice is actually having a choice and exercising it.

Melinda Tankard Reist on the sexualisation of girls

Posted in Feminism, New Zealand on August 2nd, 2010 by steph – 8 Comments

Melinda Tankard Reist, editor of Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls,  is in the country to address a Family First-hosted conference, The Forum on the Family, and says that ‘Raunch culture’  “has set back women in Western societies more than 50 years”. Tankard Reist said Western culture had developed a highly sexualised and homogonised view of females in the past decade.

From stuff.co.nz:

“A scary view about what women and girls are good for has developed; they are merely here to service the sexual satisfaction of men and if they don’t succeed they’re worthless,”

“And we’re now applying adult concepts to children: our culture is repackaging young girls as sexually interested and available.”

She said many girls strived to meet the myth. It was driven by sexualised music videos, magazines, billboards, toys, games, clothing and marketing.

As a result, girls developed physical and mental health problems such as eating disorders, depression and anxiety.

Girls as young as seven were “self-surveying” and being hospitalised with eating disorders.

The culture was driven by marketers targeting pre-teens with disposable incomes, the rise of pornography and the mainstreaming of pornographic messages, she said.

In the past five years it had also been especially perpetuated by the internet.

“This is really not fair. It’s harmful to girls as the message they are getting about how they have to act and look is very negative,” she said.

“They are made to feel they are never good enough and they’re looking at images that are airbrushed, they’re not real.”

From The Herald article:

[Women’s] liberation has now come to be seen as the ability to wrap your legs around a pole, or flash your breasts in public, or send a sexual image of yourself to your boyfriend so he can pass it around his mates. Girls think that empowerment lies in their ability to be hot and sexy.””Raunch culture has taken us back. It’s an absolute tragedy. These were issues being raised by feminists in the 1950s and 60s.”

First up: I have no idea whather this has set us back 50 years or not, but I wholeheartedly agree with the point that girls are growing up trying to live up a a myth (myths, even), and, as a result, feeling like they aren’t good enough.

I’m not a young girl (or even a teen girl), so I can’t speak to the actually reality of whether girls that age do feel pressure to be hyper-sexual (I can definitely say that I do, though!), or to take nude pictures of yourself, or whatever. But I do agree that far too much emphasis is placed on sexuality, and being sexual, and it wouldn’t suprised me if young girls (who are general vulnerable and impressionable, as young people tend to be) do feel pressue, and feel overwhelmed and insecure about themselves because of it.

Tankard Reist says that people need to make their voices heard about this issue to goverments and regulatory bodies, and that we need to develop a counter culture to provide an alternative perspective to young girls and women. Additionally, she says that parents need to say “no” to their children and monitor their media consumption, which is not necessarily realistic given that peer influence can also be a big factor, and children can also consume media in situations outside of parental control (at school, with friends, billboards on the street, etc).

I hadn’t planned to write about this, because I feel like this topic has been spoken about very eloquently before (‘Female Chauvinist Pigs’ by Ariel Levy is an easy read, though I did throw the book down in a huff a few times while reading it!), but the I let my guilty desires take over and my eyes drifted downwards to the comments on the Herald article. Oh yes, they are always so amazing.

“Sorry ladies you wanted equality now you have to face the price. I imagine if you delve into the people behind the “Raunchy” magazines and advertising creators you ill (sic) find a high percentage of aggressive feminists so dont lay the blame solely on guys.”

Be careful what you wish for/you got what you asked for, stop whining-ism? Check! Shout out to “aggressive feminists”? Check! Hilarious (and probably accidental) allusion to a feminist conspiracy to infiltrate the media and then feed messages to children? Check!
“Well said. The consequence of females copying male bad behavior is just more bad behavior – nothing else. Boys used to always want sex and girls often said no. Boys would start stupid fights and girls would stop them.

Boys would often become stupid drunks and girls would stay sensible and sober. But that’s all in the distant past. The feminist movement demanded girls should be able to behave just as badly as the boys. So now its the girls who are the more active in looking for casual sex, getting drunk and fighting.”

Blaming the feminist movement? Yep, that’s there too. (Along with some tasty gender stereotypes and fond memories of how things were back in the day).
Luckily, most of the comments there are sane, but there are always a few gems that make my day.

We can all be winners

Posted in Feminism on July 19th, 2010 by steph – 1 Comment

While reading a post on Feministing.com about Michael Kimmel, author of Guyland, I came across a quote  that I think sums up pretty well why some people (and especially some men) seem to be so resistant to, or angry at, or scared of feminism

“Men feel besieged and attacked by women’s advancement,” he said, and perceive gender as a zero-sum game: If women do better, men do worse.

I completely agree: so often, even now, the view that feminists want to take power for themselves and keep men chained up in dog kennels, in some sort of misandrist matriarchal dystopia, is still expressed by people. This view of a zero-sum game – women want to take power/rights/freedom/general ‘stuff’ , and to do so will mean ‘robbing’ it from men and depriving them- is far too familiar. But what people with a zero-sum game need to realise is that feminism is about righting inequalities in a way that means working towards equality, not reversing them so that a different group of people are the ones who are downtrodden. Feminism wants everyone to win, not women to win and men to lose.

Science showdown

Posted in Feminism on July 13th, 2010 by steph – Comments Off on Science showdown

After reading the always fascinating Emily Nagoski take on Jesse Bering at Scientific American over cervical mucus, disgust, and sex-positivity, I have now read his rebuttal column, titled ‘The foolish feminist: Be careful who you call a misogynist, you misandrist’. Emily herself has a reply to this, and over at The Sexist there is also some nice discussion of how he has successfully debunked feminism. Well done, Jesse Bering!

As well as personal insults towards Emily (calling her “not-so-delightful”, and saying he will allow her her two minutes of “lackluster fame”, calling her a “hypocritical, self-righteous, sanctimonious schmuck” and “man-hating”), he calls her a misandrist after reminding us that hey, a women edits his posts (so surely he can’t be misogynistic!)- ohmigod, guys, I wonder if he also has black friends??

What I found hilarious was this comment

I’d venture a guess that, unlike “misogyny,” many of you had to look up the word “misandry” (I did), which probably says something about the double standard by which society feels it’s perfectly acceptable for women to hate men, but men aren’t permitted to hate women.

Hahahahahaha….. so, he and I live in different societies, right? I think the claim that society doesn’t permit men to hate women is possibly the funniest thing I have heard in a long time. Our society doesn’t permit men to hate women? I didn’t realise that denial of reproductive freedom, unequal pay, and discrimination were things you did when you love someone! My bad, people. Apparently I have been doing it wrong.

He also completely fails to consider that maybe the reason people are reluctant to call themselves feminists isn’t because

radical, hot-headed, loudmouthed caricatures of blank slate feminism—are giving the feminist movement itself a bad name

but maybe because of a huge backlash against feminism that has been going on ever since women started to push up against people who didn’t want them to be allowed any rights at all: a huge tactic of any kind of hate campaign is to smear the people who are pushing against ‘the man’, and to discredit them and make them look bad by creating a hugely exaggerated negative image of the group. Like, I don’t know, painting feminists as unfeminine or unnatural, or perpetuating the myth about foaming-mouthed bra burners. You make your opposition look bad, it makes what they are fighting for also seem bad. Simple, right? So, I disagree with Jesse Bering’s point that “caricatures” of feminism give feminism a bad name: I think the image of feminism created by the backlash is more likely to be the culprit. He quotes from the conclusion of the study he mentions (Jessica Jenen and colleagues conducted an Implicit Attitude Test (IAT) on feminist concepts):

[Previous researchers] showed that many women believed that a “typical feminist” was different and more radical than many actually are.

It is completely possible that this “typical feminist” image comes from stereotypes perpetuated not by feminists but by anti-feminists. It certainly is a plausible explanation.

As for the “bad name” being the thing (or one of the things) that scares people from identifying as feminists; this is possibly the only thing Jesse Bering and I would agree on. Where we differ, however, is the possible reasons we believe have contributed towards creating this “bad name”.

As a side note, I found his concluding sentence repulsive

Go stuff it up that hole of yours which is shared by both male and female jackasses alike.

He has obviously been careful to make sure we get this is a ‘stick it up your ass’ comment, not a ‘sexual violation’ allusion, but I still think it is hideous, and given how frequently feminists on the internet are told that a certain part of male anatomy in a certain part of their female anatomy would set them straight, I think it is pretty inappropriate. And, aside from that, ending your rebuttal in ‘stick it up your ass’ is possibly the most childish thing you could do, and weakens your entire ‘I am arguing from a place of intellect and reason’ stance.

“I’m not a feminist, but…”

Posted in Feminism on July 8th, 2010 by steph – 1 Comment

After reading an interview with Olivia Munn, I began about how it seems there are more and more women in the public eye who, in interviews, say they aren’t feminists, but then go on to express their belief in equality and fairness for everyone. The ‘I’m not a feminist, but…’ effect, if you will. The thing is, I can’t decide for anyone but myself that they are a feminist. And it is, of course, a person’s prerogative to say they don’t identify as one. I’m not trying to force anyone to say or be anything. But I feel like people’s ideas of what feminism is, as well as negative stereotypes of feminists (man-hating, bra-burning, hair-legged, dungaree-wearing, blah blah blah), means that a lot of people who actually do have beliefs that are fairly in line with feminism don’t think that feminism is for them or that what they believe in is anything like what feminism is.

This is the definition of feminism:

feminism n (1895) 1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2 :organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests — feminist n or adj — feministic adj

I guess that, to me, it has always boiled down to equal rights, And reading quotes from Olivia Munn, saying, after the interviewer asks her about not considering herself a feminist,

“I just consider myself a person in this world who wants to stand up for everyone who can’t stand up for themselves. I care just as much about the guys as I do about the girls. I want geeks to feel empowered to stand with people who are more socially accepted. And I want girls to feel that they can be pretty and funny and edgy and not apologize for it.”

That sounds pretty awesome to me. As a feminist, I care just as much about the guys as I do the girls. Sexism, and a sexist society, has negative effects on men as well as women. And  definitely agree that women should be able to feel like they can be pretty and edgy, and be themselves and not apologize for it.

What I think it comes down to is:

” if you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.”

Yes you are.

I can’t make anyone say that they are a feminist. But I do hope that we all get a little less scared of the big scary f-word.