Sexism Isn’t Nature

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(Shown: a woman with very strange ideas about how evolution works, not to mention about what feminism is. From womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com.)

In his book The Four LovesC.S. Lewis calls natural ”a word to conjure with”, and says that “[i]f you take nature as a teacher she will teach you exactly the lessons you had already decided to learn; this is only another way of saying that nature does not teach”. He, of course, is talking about his own favorite subject of religion, but I think his words have much broader applications.

We humans love to speak for nature.

If we think certain sexual practices are icky, we label them “crimes against nature”, then make laws against them (e.g. Louisiana and North Carolina) on nature’s behalf. And then we refuse to get rid of those laws, even years after it becomes illegal to enforce them.

Today, in marketplaces and in media, we are bombarded with messages about how certain products and practices are superior because they are “natural” — or are inferior because they aren’t.

A key defense of slavery was that it was “natural”. That started with Aristotle, but sadly did not end with him.

When we humans want instant legitimacy for our ideas, we claim to be speaking for nature. It’s a shady trick that works because nature is not a person; no one who disagrees with us can ask nature if we are representing it properly.

This kind of appeal to nature is a popular weapon against feminism. Some anti-feminists like to call it “biology” or (like the rather confused woman above) “evolution”, but their message is clear no matter how it is packaged: that gender roles aren’t something humans made up — rather, they are ordained by nature itself.

Some MRAs, for example, love to talk about the "biological reality" of women, but it’s more than just internet weirdos. Earlier this month, a Glasgow University professor told an audience at an education conference that encouraging women to pursue careers in science was “deny[ing] human biology and nature”.

It’s all nonsense, of course. If anyone found real, credible science backing the claim that gender roles are truths of nature rather than cultural constructs, we’d never stop hearing about it. It would be preached from Evangelical pulpits as confirmation of Biblical values. Social conservatives in legislature would be rallying around it like a banner. The blondes on Fox News Channel would trot it out almost every day.

Here’s an easy rule of thumb: people who claim their ideas about social order come from “nature”, or “biology”, or “evolution” are always wrong.

That goes double for people who try to make broad, sweeping generalizations about women and girls. Someone who has never met my daughter knows nothing about her “nature” except a small tidbit about her anatomy. When I want to know about her nature, I’ll ask her.

Right now, she says her nature requries juice.

Thanks for reading.

femfreq

YouTube comments aren’t “just the Internet.” They’re not the product of a group of otherwise nice guys who suddenly become evil when they wear a veil of anonymity. YouTube comments are actually a nightmarish glimpse into the sexist attitudes that define the fabric of our own existence in the “real world,” a world that, like YouTube, is owned and dominated by men. The most terrifying gift that the Internet has given us is that it’s shown us how men honestly perceive the world: as a place where women exist exclusively for their sexual pleasure.

In the wake of VidCon, and as more and more women start speaking up about the harassment they face online, it’s time to start realizing that our narrative of progress is deeply flawed. Things aren’t getting better for women on the Internet; they’re deteriorating and ignoring the problem amounts to being complicit in it.

"For women on the Internet, it doesn’t get better" by Samantha Allen (via femfreq)

100% true. Anonymity doesn’t create hate; it only reveals it.

Eye Candy in Sports

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(Shown: the tweet I get from the Bucks every single day for the past couple of weeks.)

With basketball season approaching, the Twitter feed of my favorite NBA team, the Milwaukee Bucks (shut up — we have Jabari Parker now), has been bombarding me with messages about auditions for the Milwaukee Bucks Dancers. Obviously, they’ve never seen me dance.

Invariably, these messages are accompanied by an image of three young, scantily-clad women in mid-dance, smiling so broadly that their teeth appear to be trying to take over their faces.

The name “Milwaukee Bucks Dancers” seems a little misleading to me. Maybe I’m just cynical, but I can’t help thinking that these ladies’ primary purpose is to be ogled by heterosexual men rather than to impress sports fans with their dancing prowess or to get people excited about the Milwaukee Bucks. I checked out the the Milwaukee Bucks Dancers calendar (important blog research, honey), and, strangely enough, none of the images in it seem to have anything to do with dancing or the Milwaukee Bucks.

I don’t mean to single out the Bucks. I use them as an example here because they’re my team, but they’re hardly unique. Nearly every NBA and NFL team has dancers or “cheerleaders” (I never see them leading any cheers). 

The sports world, apparently, really wants me to ogle women. Television cameras at sporting events regularly sift through predominantly male crowds to find attractive female fans and then zoom in on them for the pleasure of viewing audiences.

Sports Illustrated, whether you ask for it or not, mixes in their “Swimsuit Edition” full of almost-naked young women with their subscribers’ regular diet of sports journalism. The most recent one features Emily Ratajkowski (from the “Blurred Lines” video) in a tankini with a see-through top — very pertinent to the future of the Miami Heat’s remaining free agents.

I’ll wait while you Google it, you pervs.

Everywhere I look, the sports world is hellbent on presenting me with attractive women, usually in ways that have nothing to do with sports. I don’t get it: do sports franchises and publications think we’ll abandon them if they don’t find ways to fulfill our regular quota of boobs?

I don’t want to disparage boobs; I like boobs as much as the next heterosexual man. There’s nothing wrong with finding people attractive, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at attractive people. But that doesn’t mean I need or want sexualized images of women to be constantly, artificially inserted into my experience as a sports fan.

Men have the internet. Men have television. Many men even have relationships with actual women. What does it say about about the world we live in that, even knowing all this, sports teams and sports media still think they need to dangle women in front of us like a carrot to keep us watching sports?

I, for one, could do without it. I could do without 30 seconds of legs and midriff in the middle of a 60-second timeout. I could do without Go Daddy Super Bowl commercials. I could do without Dan Patrick having awkward interviews with swimsuit models less than half his age on a show that is supposed to be about sports. I could do without “hottest World Cup fans" galleries.

Someday, I’d like to take my daughter to basketball games the way my dad used to take me to baskeball games. Unless things change drastically in the next few years, though, that’s eventually going to involve answering her questions about why the boys are playing basketball while the girls are just, well, gyrating.

I could definitely do without that.

Thanks for reading.

jessicalprice

jessicalprice:

Here’s what I know:

  1. False rape accusations are extremely rare. (False rape claims — that is, false claims that don’t identify a perpetrator — are still far less common than, say, not reporting real rapes, but they’re considerably more common than accusations that accuse a specific person.) That’s not to say they don’t happen. They do. And things get considerably weirder and less standard when you’re dealing with celebrity, even minor internet celebrity.

  2. Max Temkin made a game I, and a lot of other gamers, geeks, and game industry people, like a lot. I don’t know him personally, but he’s friends with a lot of people I know.

Do I think he did it? I have no idea. My inclination is to always believe the victim, and statistically speaking, that’s the more logical tack to take. And I think that, especially with college students and other adolescents, there’s a ton of gray area.

I think we’re all products of a culture that is fucked up around consent. It teaches us that rapists are mustache-twirling villains and rape victims are either screaming and fighting or roofied and unconscious. It says that consent—even from complete strangers—is implied unless a no is clearly and forcefully stated, instead of telling us that non-consent is the default in the absence of a clear and enthusiastic yes. It teaches women that we shouldn’t give a clear and enthusiastic yes, that we should play hard-to-get and demure. It teaches men to be pursuers of elusive and reluctant feminine quarry, and that overcoming reluctance is a sign of prowess, rather than a sign that you should go flirt with someone else instead.

So yeah, I think it’s totally possible that two people in college, both of whom would never intentionally harm another person, could have a sexual encounter in which one thought they were just being enthusiastic and the other felt pressured or even coerced.

I also think that Temkin’s response is troubling for a lot of reasons laid out here. I don’t agree with everything in that post, but I think it makes a lot of good points. Here's another good piece.

And more importantly, I’m really disappointed in how a lot of people in the games community are responding: that they like Temkin and/or his game, and therefore this woman must be lying.

Guys, this is how it happens. Right here. Most victims aren’t assaulted by a stranger in a back alley who puts a gun to their head. It’s someone they know. Someone who has friends who can’t believe their friend could ever do something like that. Their friend who, him/herself, cannot believe that s/he would ever coerce someone into sexual activity.

In Praise of “Peg + Cat”

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(Image source: pbskids.org)

One of the most enduring tropes in cartoons is the bossy girl. Think about it: Lucy in Peanuts, Margaret in Dennis the Menace, Miss Piggy in Muppet Babies, Angelica in Rugrats, Sarah in Ed, Edd,and Eddy. The cartoons I watch with my daughter are no exception: Shiny Pteranodon’s aggrivating bossiness is a common plot device in Dinosaur Train and Candace is constantly trying to get her brothers in trouble and declaring that she’s “in charge” in Phineas and Ferb.

That’s why it’s so refreshing to see a cartoon show put forth a heroine who says things like this:

"Call me crazy, but I’ve got a good feeling about you guys. You just need someone to help you work on your skills. Somebody tough. Somebody bold. Somebody who knows how to totally mold you into champions. I’m Peg, and I’d like to be your coach. You’ll have to work hard, listen up, and do exactly what I say."

(Peg in Peg + Cat, Season 1, Episode 9:”The Penguin Problem”)

It would have been so easy to use these words to funnel a female character into the worn “bossy girl” mold, but Peg + Cat bucks the trend, celebrating a girl’s assertiveness rather than mocking it. 

The parent of a little girl could not ask for a better cartoon character than Peg in Peg + Cat. Peg is a knight, a superhero, a restaurant proprieter, a ninja, and a skiing coach. She hunts for treasure, she builds and races cars, she leads a band, she travels to other planets, and she helps Beethoven compose symphonies. Above all, she knows her math.

Peg isn’t perfect, mind you. Peg makes mistakes. Peg regularly needs help (especailly the often accidental help of Cat and the guidance of jack-of-all trades older kid Ramone). And once every episode, Peg totally freaks out. This is important, because Peg isn’t here to say, “Don’t you wish you were like me?” Peg is here to say, “This could be you.”

Peg teaches us math, but she also teaches us that girls who mess up, who need help, and who sometimes totally freak out can be anything they want to be. Peg + Cat isn’t about feminism; it’s about math. But feminist parents will find a lot to love here.

Thanks for reading.

Figure of Speech Friday IV

Beta Fish

(Shown: a beta — not sure whether or not it’s a male.)

Beta Male (n)

Top UrbanDictionary.com definition: 

An unremarkable, careful man who avoids risk and confrontation. Beta males lack the physical presence, charisma and confidence of the Alpha male.

Why We Should Stop Using It:

The term “beta male” is an internet slang term that apes (pun intended) zoological terminology, comparing men to animals and shaming them for not fitting into patriarchal gender stereotypes. It is never a complimentary term, though men often use it sympathetically (my personal experience has been that most of the sympathetic use of the term revolves around men’s relationships with women).

I have never, ever, in all my time on the internet, seen a woman use this term.

The great irony of the term is that it owes much of its popularity on the internet to the the “men’s rights” community — that is, the people who are most vociferous about the unfair treatment of men. The same people who claim to be standing up for the rights of men are the ones popularizing terminology that stereotypes and dehumanizes men. This is is a mystifying contradiction — or it would be if anyone really believed “men’s rights” was actually about men or rights rather than misogyny.

I’m looking at you, manosphere. As long as you persist in using words that shame men for not living up to artificial standards of “manhood”, you are the ones keeping men down, not women or feminism. If you’re really interested in the rights of men, you’ll stop calling them names.

Think about what your words mean. And thanks for reading.

Gray Hair and the State of the Blog

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(Emmylou Harris. Image source: Wikipedia.)

The first time I watched the the concert/documentary film Down From the Mountain, I was struck by the appearance of singer Emmylou Harris. There was something eye-catching about her that I couldn’t put my finger on. Sure, she was was pretty, but I can hardly have the TV on for 30 seconds without seeing a pretty woman. There was something else about her look that was grabbing my attention, and I couldn’t quite place it.

I figured it out later: it was her hair. I wasn’t used to seeing women with hair like that on my TV screen. Think about it: how many women do you see on screen with long, gray hair? Not dyed hair; not gray hair in tight, stereotypical “old lady” curls; not short, spiky gray hair; but long, unapologetic gray hair?

I certainly have no trouble finding men in TV and film with lots of gray hair. Mark Harmon on the CBS hit NCIS is gray all over and plays one of prime time TV’s great badasses. How many times has Richard Gere played a romantic lead with a full head of gray hair? Has Anderson Cooper ever had any hair color other than gray?

Where are the female equivalents of Harmon, Gere, and Cooper?

On a related note, where are the female equivalents of commercials and products like this?

Is there a commercial somewhere for a product I don’t know about that encourages women to preserve their gray hair because it “says experience”? I’m guessing not.

It took someone (Harris) bucking the trend to alert me to the existence of this double standard. In hindsight, it should have been obvious.

I took a break from writing this blog because it was starting to turn into something I had never intended it to be. My most popular posts (like this one and this one) and the majority of my social media conversations were about current events. And while there certainly are current events that every feminist needs to talk about, what I’m most interested in are things like I’m writing about here: little, subtle bits of sexism that I find in my everyday life as a man.

It’s easy to criticize a raving misogynist (not to mention murderer) like Elliot Rodger, but it’s a lot harder — and a lot more interesting, I think — to turn the microscope on ourselves and see the sexism that is never going to make the news. It’s becoming aware of that that’s going to make us a less sexist people.

Thanks for reading.

Not All Men, But Probably You

Memorial Day weekend saw an explosion of e-feminism in the wake of the UCSB shooting. Lots of articles were written, and the massive #YesAllWomen social media campaign is yet to fully subside. I missed much of it myself — I spent most of the weekend rehearsing with a new band — but even so yesterday was probably my busiest day yet as a feminist blogger.

What was so shocking (and ultimately mobilizing) for feminists about shooter Elliot Rodger was not his exceptional brutality, but his disturbingly unexceptional motivations. The misogynistic entitlement Rodger articulated in his now-famous YouTube video sounded eerily familiar to women. His words reminded them of men they’d met in school, at bars, and online.

So internet feminists, myself included, reacted, calling out male entitlement for its role in this slaughter and insisting that this incident is not an isolated one: rather, it is one extreme example of an epidemic of male behavior that has harmed all women everywhere.

No sooner had these sentiments hit the blogosphere than an insistent chorus of male voices began to shout back at us, “It’s not all men!”

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This is one of a couple Not All Men apologists I met on Twitter yesterday. He is not alone: you can hear about many more like him in last weekend’s writing from Chuck Wendig, Felicia Day, and Phil Plait, just to name a few.

Feminists are not — and have never been — talking about all men. Feminists are talking about a specific (though all too common) kind of man, and I can’t help being suspicious of the people who can’t see this. In the words of poet and hip-hop artist Toney Jackson, “You know the type, yeah, you probably do,/ And if you don’t know it then it’s probably you”.

You don’t have to tell us; feminists already know that there are lots of good guys out there. But if your first instinct when confronted with the story of Elliot Rodger is to leap to the defense of men, forgive us for suspecting you’re probably not one of them.

Thanks for reading.

No More Mr. Nice Guy

They are encouraged and sympathized with on men’s rights forums (yes, men’s rights forums are a thing). They are mocked and derided in blogs like Nice Guys of OKCupid. They are the tormented gentlemen who are forever stuck in the "friend zone" because women are insecure and ultimately would rather sleep with abusive douchebags than smart, sensitive, respectful, men like them. They are alone, not because of any fault of their own but because women and society at large refuse to appreciate their merits.

They are Nice Guys, and they are full of shit.

Nice Guys are all over the place, especially on the internet. They are on social media, having conversations like this.

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They are on forums, posting pictures like this.

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And they are on YouTube, making videos like this.

When I was in college, Nice Guys even got their own rock anthem from Good Charlotte. Yes, the Nice Guys are everywhere. They cannot be escaped.

Supportive internet communities and an abundance of Nice Guy-like TV characters have helped normalize the Nice Guy and obscure the misogyny that underlies his worldview, but take a close look at the things the Nice Guy says and it’s hard to see him as anything but a misogynist.

When a man says, “Nice guys like me get left in the friend zone while disrespectful douchebags get laid all they want,” what he’s really saying is:

  • Women lack the judgement to choose their own mates.

  • It is wrong for women to not desire me.

  • A friendship with a woman is a failure and a waste if it does not get me sex.

As a feminist, I used to regard the Nice Guy as a mostly harmless symptom of a much bigger problem. I ridiculed the Nice Guy, but I never feared him. Karma seemed to be taking care of him just fine; his delusion and misogyny were keeping him unhappy and alone.

As it turns out, I was very wrong.

This weekend, we all learned about one Nice Guy that karma couldn’t keep down. His name was Elliot Rodger. He differed from most other Nice Guys in that he had mental health issues and firearms, but his ideas about women and relationships were straight out of the Nice Guy textbook.

“It’s an injustice, a crime, because I don’t know what you don’t see in me,” Rodger said in a video he posted on YouTube. “I’m the perfect guy, and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman.”

On Friday, Rodger went to a UC Santa Barbara sorority house and started shooting. It was not a randomly chosen location: in the video, Rodger had declared, “I am going to enter the hottest sorority house at UCSB and I will slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blonde slut I see inside there, all those women I’ve desired so much.” Rodger killed six people and injured several more before apparently taking his own life.

Friday, the Nice Guy stopped being a joke.

Now that we have seen the full extent of the harm his mentality can cause, we can no longer just laugh at the Nice Guy. We can no longer dismiss him as an impotent loser whose only real victim is himself. Now the Nice Guy has blood on his hands. He must be stopped.

Men and women alike need to stop tolerating the Nice Guy. When our male friends lament that the objects of their affection are happy to throw themselves at less deserving men, when they assume that whatever kindness they can muster entitles them to a woman’s affections, when they gripe about being in the “friend zone”, we need to call them out.

We need to say to them that a woman is not a game that can be won by scoring enough niceness points. We need to say that a woman’s companionship, sexual or otherwise, is not something that we get by earning it or deserving it. We need to say that a woman chooses to give her heart and/or body to someone — or chooses not to — for her own reasons, and those reasons are not subject to anyone else’s approval. And we need to say that the men who refuse to accept this are the problem, not women. 

I have kept silent about the Nice Guys (at least to their faces) thus far because it is more fun to mock them than to fight them, but now they must be fought.

The Nice Guy isn’t funny anymore. Now he’s dangerous.

Thanks for reading.