Category Archives: misogyny

Such a Nice Guy

by cacophonies

I was at a party the other night, imnotme’s older brother’s girlfriend’s 30th. BirthdayGirl throws many parties and is a fabulous host, and the party was a great time, as usual. There was one guest, however, that didn’t quite jive with the rest of us.

For a little background information, the crowd that typically gathers at BirthdayGirl’s trendy Uptown condo parties are mostly white, mid-to-late twenties and early thirties professionals, with careers in design, advertising, or copy writing. They’re generally fairly comfortable financially and most have bachelor’s degrees, some have continued further in the pursuit of higher education. In fact, if they weren’t all so friendly, welcoming and talkative, I’d feel terribly out of place with my broke-ass, in-and-out of college every couple years self. But alas, I manage not to.

Anyway, as you can imagine based on the nature of my blog and the people that you would assume that I would willingly spend time with, everyone in the group is pretty left-leaning and feminist-friendly. In contrast to this general ideal, though, imnotme’s younger brother brought a friend along with him to this recent bash. “Jake” is not from our neck of the woods (Minneapolis, MN) and hails from Minnetonka, a wealthy suburb of Minneapolis known for… well, rich, bigoted white people, and a fairly large lake.

Jake is known amongst people who meet him as a “nice guy.” Everyone agrees that he’s a bit boisterous, a little too in-your-face sometimes, but you certainly can’t speak ill of a guy who’ll bring over an eighth of kind bud and tell you to help yourself, as he goes into your kitchen and selects a beer to bring to you, beer that he brought over.

In his circles, he’s just a Nice Dude. In ours, we make sure we’re tentative when we agree. But it’s unanimous, right? Dude is just Nice.

The problem lies in the fact that, while he’s generous and overtly (to the point of seeming ingenuine) friendly to you and your friends, he defaults to the lowest common denominator when in a group of people; especially new people, as was the case when YoungerBro brought him to BirthdayGirl’s party.

Lowest common denominator conversations in parties where yuppie-ish, progressive white people are drinking beer and socializing with people they barely know tend to gravitate toward one of two things: sex or sexism. The sexism part, of course, is never hostile or necessarily malicious (or even conscious), but rather a grasp at a common thing that you can safely assume that everyone’s thought about. Differences between men and women, girlfriend/boyfriend problems, what makes guys dump girls and vice versa.

So back to the main point: Jake, he’s kind of a “big dude.” You can tell that the majority of his weight is made up of muscle mass, the deliberate, obsessive kind, where he makes it a point to be as muscular as possible just so he can be as “manly” as possible. Most people probably assume he was a football player in high school and college. He makes a remark to YoungerBro about how skinny he is. YoungerBro, never one to admit that he feels insecure or insulted, pauses briefly and haughtily agrees with him. Jake says, after realizing that his comment could have caused potential uneasiness, hurries to “Hey, it’s a good thing. It’s better than–” (he lowers his voice and even crouches down a bit) “–being fat.” He pauses for a minute as the only people who presumably heard him, imnotme and myself, give no response. YoungerBro also elicits no response. Jake briefly measures the pauses on his Gauge of Social Awkwardness, and quickly attempts to apologize for the remark by muttering half-apologetically, half arrogantly, “Man, that was real shallow of me to say, huh?”

Well, no shit. The thing is, not one outside on that patio was “fat.” Plenty of people were “skinny,” including a few guys, and no one had anything affirming to say in response to his assertion that being skinny is better than being fat. Imnotme and myself were the only ones that presumably heard him, but the fact that no one even bothered to affirm his assertion seemed to spark his Gauge. Perhaps it had something to do with the underlying implication that, in order to be compared to fat people in the way that Jake did it to YoungerBro, you’d have to be what he (and his peers) would deem to be too skinny. You know, for a dude. Dudes can be big, chicks can be skinny. Dudes don’t get (relevant) shit for being big, chicks don’t get (genuinely negative) shit for being skinny.

One more glaring, obnoxious example of ridiculous expectations that men and women are faced with, perpetuated by someone that everyone thinks is such a goddamn Nice Fucking Dude.

There were other examples of the ways that Jake occasionally stuck out like a sore thumb at this party, but I can no longer remember them all. The point remains, though, that someone may be extra nice to you, and a real asshat to everyone else, and in Jake’s case, it likely has everything to do with where he grew up, and his privileged background. It’s really easy to grow up white, rich, and sheltered. It’s really easy to quickly pass judgment on the people you see every day who don’t look exactly like you. It’s really easy to assume that because someone isn’t like you, that they are somehow defective, unreasonable, or lazy. It’s really easy to be known as a Nice Dude when you don’t even notice what a dick you are otherwise. It’s so easily forgivable, right?

It’s hard to be in a situation like that, for me personally, and listen to people like him, voice booming, about things like how being “too” skinny is better than being fat. It’s hard for me to stay quiet, but it’s even harder for me to say something confrontational or to correct his arrogance. At least there’s a bright side. The bright side is that, 5 years ago, if I were to have gone to a similar party and a Jake showed up and started running his mouth, 90% of the other partygoers would have joined in. My social circles haven’t changed much– they include different individual people, but the ideologies shared in the various groups remained the same– so it’s not necessarily that I just started hanging around better people. Maybe we’re all just growing up, realizing that things aren’t as black and white as we thought they were before, and now, 90% of the people at the party will, at the very minimum, cringe.

I don’t think that Jake is not a nice guy; I will willingly allow him that label, but I will not feel comfortable allowing him the grace of being ignorant when it’s avoidable. Maybe that is the distinction; if a person is aware of their ignorance or arrogance, then they have enough sense to change their ways, and only pride or stubbornness is standing in their way. That is a choice, and therefore, in my mind, unforgivable. If one has the mental capacity to consider whether or not they are in the right or wrong about an opinion or statement that they made, then one has the sense to be a progressive and respectable individual. If they are not a progressive and respectable individual upon realizing that they have the choice, then in my mind, they are no longer eligible for my social forgiveness or good graces. That does, of course, mean that I am declaring that I have the “right answers”; otherwise, how would I even be capable of making a decision about this person’s societal worth? The problem is that I am perpetually annoyed by people or groups that declare, or at least believe, that what they think, feel, believe, etc., is superior to other ideologies, so naturally, I do not want to be one of those people.

I’m not sure that I believe that people can change who they are and what they believe in a matter of minutes, or based on a class or a conversation with someone who holds a different perspective than theirs’… but, I do believe that people can change their minds and I believe that anytime someone changes their mind, it’s probably a good idea.

Gender Equality

by cacophonies

For anyone who reads this blog with any regularity, you’ve no doubt noticed the lack of posts in the past month. Well, imnotme and I moved, we’ve been getting ready for school (imnotme transferring and me enrolling for spring) and are settling into a new routine, and blogging has just become an afterthought– although imnotme has started a side project, blogging about his experiences on Trazodone, a prescription that he’s just begun taking for insomnia.

In addition to (and maybe of because of) that, I’ve been reconsidering my motives for starting and writing on this blog.

I still “believe in” feminism, at it’s core. I am still grateful for those women and men who are activists and change minds and policies every day. But I’m also changing my focus, whether I really wanted to or not. I’m in no way saying that I no longer care about the ways that sexism and misogyny affect women and try to (and do!) hold us down. But… I can no longer say that I feel that it’s important for us to focus solely on the ways that sexism hurts women.

While it’s important and useful to personalize and identify your passions and activism, to not spread yourself too thin, feminists tend to flat-out ignore the ways that misogyny, patriarchy, and sexism affect men. You tend to hear more these days, but they’re barely scratching the surface, with their quickly forgotten, sentence-long statement about how “patriarchy hurts men, too,” before moving on to how sexism against men is really just another manifestation of misogyny.

The thing is, I tend to agree with the assertion that hatred and fear of femininity is the root cause of most, if not all forms of sexism against men. What needs to change is that we need to stop focusing on this, stop using it as a rhetorical sound-bite to illustrate to the masses how misogyny is still alive and well.

When men are discriminated against because of their sex or gender identity, when they’re being held to ridiculous gender expectations, we, as feminists, need to stop screaming “feminism!!” in their faces. Perhaps embracing feminism is one solution, but it’s certainly not the only. Ordering a man to embrace feminism when he’s been the victim of sexual discrimination at the hands of a woman isn’t going to earn you his trust right away.

Imnotme and I had an incredibly enlightening and emotional discussion about physical standards men are expected to live up to. Throughout the conversation, as I listened to imnotme talk about the pressure to be a “buff,” muscular dude, I had to restrain myself from interrupting him to remind him of how many young women struggle with anorexia and other eating disorders, how the pressure to be thin, as a woman, was, in my opinion, far more dangerous and affecting. And I’m glad I did manage restraint, because imnotme was being candid and open with his struggles with gender conformity and expectations, and who was I to make it “all about the womenz”? Feminist blogs use that statement all the time– only, of course, replace “womenz” with “menz.” Men stumble across a feminist blog, read about rape statistics, and argue that no one cares about prison rape, men are wrongly accused of rape all the time, etc., thereby making it “all about the menz.”

Trying to assert that misogyny is more significant or damaging than misandry (if you even agree that misandry can exist– some radical feminists and other left-leaning bloggers would disagree, since men are the ruling class and oppressors) is to try to split sexism into neat little categories of importance, diminishing the voices of so many other oppressed people, invalidating their experiences.

I’m tired of fighting on a “side.” There’s no sense to it anymore, and even if we finally get where we’re going, it’s taken much longer than necessary.

I’m still going to get angry when I see pictures of celebrity women that are Photoshopped beyond belief, the subjects turned into disproportionate waifs with no hips or breasts to speak of, that we are supposed to strive to look like. But I’m also going to get angry when I see Calvin Klein ads with men who are 6 feet tall and 190 pounds of muscle, huge biceps and discernible abs and square jaws, that men are supposed to strive to look like.

I still identify as a  feminist, but I’m not going to act on one side anymore. I’m for gender equality, not just the equality of women.

Gendered Language, Part II

by cacophonies

The recent post about gendered language and the common defaulting to male got on quite a tangent. I’d like to raise a few points to maybe clarify, or expand on, what I was saying.

My annoyance at being defaulted to male, like when a customer sends a letter to me, a female, addressed to “Sirs,” is based less on historical context or its relevance to current societal problems or legal issues, and more to do with what the words or phrases mean in modern society.

No, discontinuing the official use of gendered language is not stopping women from “facing legal penalty for being raped in misogynistic cultures,” but it is holding onto, and perpetuating, the idea that women are not equal to men. Whether the person who writes the letter or defaults to male pronouns in speech realizes it or not, or whether or not s/he is actively sexist.

I readily acknowledge the fact that meanings of words have changed with time, and the root of any one word may mean something completely different in a different time than its modified version does now. I agree that gendered language is slowly evolving and becoming more inclusive. I’m also not denying that, 50 years ago, when the same elderly person that called me a sir in their letter to me wrote their first letter to her bank, it was 100% expected that a man would receive that letter and handle the person’s problem. Maybe more women were accepting of that then, and they aren’t now. Times have changed, and I understand that.

My post was, ultimately, touching on a small annoyance that I, as a female, have to deal with in my professional life. Defaulting to male when addressing or describing people is now outdated and, because of the fact that women occupy nearly all positions in the corporate world, sexist, whether intended or not.

Gendered language does, however, grow into larger problems. The little boy who learns that it is expected to assume everyone is male when addressing an audience, a letter, or telling a story, will grow accustomed to the idea that he is the default, and therefore, the most important or most valuable. The little girl that learns the same thing will grow accustomed to believing that she is an afterthought, or not as important, and that she will always have to struggle to be recognized– more so than her male counterparts.

The subliminal messages (whether intended or not) that we get and process as a result of gendered language can, in fact, be problematic on a larger scale. Maybe, if the 20-year old college guy hadn’t been assuming that everyone defaults to male, therefore not realizing that he sees himself as more valuable than women, or sees women as a people who exist for him, he would have listened when the girl that went to the frat party he threw said no, because he would see her as a peer, someone who had the same ability to make decisions for herself as he had.

That’s a bit of an out-there example, but I think it fits. Acquaintance/date rape is a huge problem, and the victims are more often women than men, and gendered language that defaults to men is only aiding in the mindset that that’s expected, or acceptable behavior. Like it’s just another part of being a female that we have to live with, comparable to our periods.

That’s not how it actually is, and that’s not the idea that we should perpetuate with something so easily changed and modified as our language.

Feminism Is, Is Not

by cacophonies

In order to understand what feminism is, one must be willing to accept that not every person who claims to be a feminist will share the same viewpoints on every issue. In nearly every criticism of feminist that I’ve heard or read, there seems to be a universal misunderstanding of what, exactly, feminism is, and who a feminist is. Most people in this category are generally focusing on one or two issues that they’ve heard about involving militant or radical feminists that do not encompass the majority of feminists. I hate to compare feminism with mainstream religion, but just as the majority of Christians you know aren’t lunatics who will tell soldiers’ families that their son or daughter is in hell, but people who simply follow a religion and bases their life decisions and perspective on those teachings. While I don’t think the two parallel perfectly, I consider the two to be comparable for their general idea and common public misconceptions.

Some basic dictionary perusing would get us off to a great start:

According to dictionary.com:

Feminism:

–noun
1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
2. (sometimes initial capital letter) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.

Not many people, including the strongest of feminist critics, would disagree with the first assertion. The problem that most feminists have with people (more often men, but a great deal of women, as well) who are anti-feminist is when anyone makes a statement or assertion based on the idea that women are already equal to men, or as equal as they’re gong to be, and that now, all we’re doing is whining or trying to conquer society.

Claiming that women are already completely, 100% equal is problematic for a number of reasons. The majority of women in the United States could, I am assuming (I’ll look up statistics later) easily remember the last time that they encountered sexism on a personal level, and it’s probably very recent. There area number of ways in which women are still not equal. Off the top of my head:

– Women are still not earning as much as their male counterparts. I believe the figure is still around 75%, but it could be in the upper 70’s now, if I’m remembering correctly.

– Women are still being ridiculed and shamed for being sexually promiscuous, or nonchalant about sex, while their male counterparts are either being praised, or left alone.

– Many men are still of the opinion that it’s okay to have sex with a woman if she objects. The most recent statistics I’ve heard are that 1 in 4 women are raped in their lifetime. The same is not true for men*.

– Women are judged more frequently for their physical appearance as opposed to their character intelligence, and other abilities. Women are not expected to be smart or clever, so they are therefore treated as though they are not.

– People will still get mad whether a woman decides to go to work or stay home after she has a baby. No one cares about what the father does, unless he chooses to stay home. Then he’s praised for being such a good daddy.*

*I don’t know the official, or most accurate statistics for how many men will be raped in their lifetime. I am sure that I can easily Google it, and I will, but I don’t think that the results that I find will be satisfactory. I think that many men who have been raped may feel pressure not to admit it, for a variety of reasons, most of which being based upon the idea that men cannot be raped either because of the assumption that he will always want sex (making men out to be animals with no control over their physical urges, which is insulting to men), or because being raped is seen as an incredibly violating act, one that no man would want to emasculate himself by admitting to have been a victim.

Let me make something clear. The above theory could be perceived by many to be sexist against men, and to be an example of how our society does not allow men to have emotional, vulnerable, or “weak” sides. Or, we could take that perception and expand a bit further: We don’t allow men to be emotional, vulnerable, or weak, because those are seen as feminine traits, and masculinity is more valuable to our society than femininity. It’s okay if our women are feminine and show emotion, vulnerability, and weakness, because, what else would you expect from a female? But a man, on the other hand, is seen as taking a step down on the ladder by being more feminine, because he’s supposed to embrace the superior maleness that he intrinsically has. Hence why gay men receive the majority of ridicule, and people seem to be indifferent to (or excited about, but that’s a different post) lesbians, and why transgender women are mocked, made fun of, and much worse, and the majority of us don’t even realize that transgender men exist. Think about the 10-year-old girl who plays baseball and is affectionately referred to as a tomboy by her family and friends, and embraces that role, and then imagine her brother, who is ridiculed for being a sissy or “tomgirl,” because he embodies more feminine qualities in his speech, dress, or activities. This is an example of misogyny, and feminists believe that men don’t deserve to be burdened with impossible, unrealistic, or any, for that matter, expectations based on their gender, either.

Regarding the difference in how men and women are treated when they have a child and choose to work or be a stay-at-home parent, men are praised simply because it’s not expected of them to do the child-rearing. This is insulting to men because it aides in our ill-conceived assumption that men shouldn’t be primary caretakers, or that they aren’t good at it or well-suited for it, and that women are intrinsically better parents. Women are assumed to be good for only parenting in many peoples’ opinions, whether they care to admit it or not. Similarly, a father that abandons his family is not generally respected, but think of the notion of a woman leaving her family. She’s faced with a lot more rage and confusion than a man would be.

Feminism is not the belief that women are better than men in any way, or that women should have more rights than men. We all want to level the playing field, and be treated with the same respect one would give to a man in the same situation. Feminism does not seek to punish men for any privilege they were born into or shun them, shame them, or emasculate them. Feminism merely strives to be considered 100% equal in our society, and treated with respect.