Awful Assumptions-Feminists

Cureafeminist

 

Did I mention that there are awful stereotypes about feminists?  Just in case you forgot, Maxim published this gem in 2003, and it has spread all over the internet.

Apparently, a feminist equals an “unshaven, militant protesting vegan” who needs to be turned into an actual girl.

I’m not sure how they define girl, or why a Maxim reader would want to have sex with a girl rather than a woman.  Isn’t it illegal to have sex with a girl?  Isn’t that statutory rape?   And why does the third girl from the left look like a child?  Semantics aside, there are other highly offensive feminist stereotypes portrayed here.

Feminism is a broad label applied to anyone who believes that men and women are equal as human beings and supports the movement toward equality.  Within that movement, there are a wide variety of individuals.  Some shave, some don’t, some are vegetarian, some are vegan, some eat bacon, some are angry, some hate men.  But most feminists love men, as lovers, as friends, as allies.  Most feminists are angry about injustice, rightfully so.

I’m absolutely horrified that I’m supposed to be turned into the girl on the right hand panel.  I want to wear clothes, have opinions, and actually make a difference, not “speak into your microphone.”  Classy, Maxim.  Classy.

You would think that Maxim would like Feminism.  After all, who said that women should pay for more of their own dates?  Feminists.  Who said that women should feel free to have sex without commitment?  Feminists.  Who invented birth control?  Feminists.  Who says that women should be confident and self-reliant?  Feminists.

Feminism taught women that it’s okay to be sex positive, to love life, to pay for your own dates, to use birth control, and to not rely on a man.  Isn’t that what Maxim wants for its readers?  Why on earth would they want to cure that?

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How to Handle a Rape Joke

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve been aware that there has been controversy over rape jokes.  Which ones are funny, which ones aren’t.  The question of what makes a good rape joke has been debated ad naseum this summer, in light of the Daniel Tosh routine.  The feminist conclusion seems to be that jokes that use rape as a punchline aren’t funny, while jokes that make fun of rapists or rape culture are.

Unfortunately, given the number of staunch defenders of rape jokes, we can still expect to hear jokes that use rape as a punchline.  So here is some advice from Divorce Divorce on handling rape jokes.  I was especially surprised to hear that Divorce Divorce’s author is a 33 year old man.  He is Daniel Tosh’s target demographic, but he is writing with advice on how to handle a rape joke.  Allies come in all shapes and forms.

I think the best response to a rape joke is this:

I don’t get it.

Persist until they explain, explanations always being the death of any joke, funny or otherwise. Persist until they reach the point where they have to say “she got/gets raped”.

And nod, slowly, looking a little confused.

This method works for all methods of offensive jokes.  Avoiding confrontation may change minds in a way that direct activism might not.

Any other advice on how to handle offensive jokes?  Leave suggestions in the comments.

Words to Ignore

Have I mentioned how much I love Rosie of Make Me a Sammich?  Last week, I reblogged one of Rosie’s posts about   how to change behavior in a social setting.

This post is also fabulous; it reminds you that you can be an ally, an activist.  These words are silencing mechanisms, not actual criticisms of what you’re saying.  This post was intended for women and feminists especially, but there are many other brands of activism that are silenced by shaming words.

Words that other readers suggested include

  • Sexist
  • Intolerant
  • Misandrist
  • You’re taking this too personally!
  • Slut/Whore
  • Whiny
  • Any diminutive word for women, (Princess, pet, love)
  • Typical
  • White Knighting

Non-gendered silencing words include

  • Bleeding heart liberal
  • White guilt
  • Stereotypical
  • Reverse Racism
  • Virgin
  • Neckbeard
  • Naiive
  • Loser
  • Do-gooder

Are there any other words that are used as silencing mechanisms rather than attempts to discuss problems?

List the ones you’ve heard in the comments.

Awful Assumptions-Feminists have it Too Good to Complain?

Muslim Women

Muslim Women (Photo credit: Jarek Jarosz)

Don’t assume that abuse to women only happens in “less enlightened” countries.

First of all, that’s really offensive, and second of all, it’s not true.

Sara writes about her experiences with abuse in the United States.  It’s just as real as female genial mutilation, and no less wrong.  Feminists are excellent multi-taskers who work on ending abuse everywhere.  Saying that because others have it worse, we shouldn’t be working on issues that affect us close to home is a derailing technique.

Awful Assumptions about Teenage Girls

UPDATE: If you want to contact Seventeen, email editor Bernadette Anat at mail@seventeen.com.

Seventeen

Confession time: I love magazine quizzes.  So when I found a Seventeen quiz that  which TV character I am, I took it.

The very first question asks me what my favorite class is.  My options are lunch, English, Film Production, Art or Drama.  Science, Math, Shop, or anything that doesn’t involve creativity or emotions is not an option.

The next question asks me about my dream date. Do I envision it at a coffee shop, a gallery opening, a comedy show, a concert, or a candlelit dinner?  Assuming that I actually think about this, none of these options are realistic for the pimply-faced sixteen year old boys that the readers are pursuing.  Seventeen, setting young women up for perpetual disappointment.

The next question asks me which yearbook superlative I’m most likely to earn.  My options include most likely to appear on idol, best dressed, most artistic, biggest flirt, or most likely to succeed.  I get excited to see that we’ve finally acknowledged academics.

Still thrilled to have possibility of a career, I click on the next question.  Do my friends depend on me for relationship advice, gossip, “fun, spontaneous plans,” jokes, or listening skills?  I’m mildly annoyed that this is the second question about what other people think of me rather than my own perceptions of myself.

The quiz continues: What is my favorite website?  Is it Tumblr, Pinterest, Youtube, Perez Hilton’s blog, or Pandora?  I’m surprised that Facebook or Twitter aren’t options and extremely annoyed that there is no option for a news site.

Seventeen’s final question inquires after my other magazine subscriptions.  Do I read Vogue, Glamour, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone or Marie Claire?
At sixteen, I read Time and Newsweek, and I currently subscribe to Ms.  Sensing that none of the above contain quite the same content, I settle for Rolling Stone, the magazine with the highest words to picture content.

While asking which TV character I was most like, the quiz assumed that I was into emotions, fashion, music, and dating boys, traditionally girly interests.  It didn’t ask me about my dreams, career aspirations, and values.  Either way, the quiz would have been wrong; I’m sure that even if Seventeen had asked about careers, Feminist blogger would not be a career option.

I end up as Mercedes Jones, the sassy, black soul singer on Glee.  (Because that’s not stereotypical at all.)  Mercedes, although a problematic character, captured my emotions best in her self-written number, “Hell to the No.”

This quiz makes it sound like teenage girls are all about their friends, their relationships and fashion.  It reduces the wonderful, complex young women they are into melodramatic, entitled mall rats with daddy’s credit card.  No, Seventeen, your readers are more than this.  They read smart magazines, have goals, dreams and want more than the latest printed reincarnation of skinny jeans.  They like all subjects, not just the creative ones.  They want to travel, to dance, to start their own businesses, to change the world.  Believe it or not, they care about more than their crush on the cutie in English lit (stop being so heteronormative while you’re at it.  Your readers aren’t all attracted to boys).

Seventeen is one of a few magazines that caters to teenage girls, and they have a unique opportunity to address the issues that teenage girls face, not to just write a one page insert about them and then show new shoes.  It’s a shame that their quizzes and content perpetuate stereotypes about girls instead of helping them.  But that doesn’t bring in ad revenue, does it?

Time for a Party-Picking a Theme

College Party Themes are Terrible

Toga party

Toga party (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My roommate and I want to host a party.  So we found many suggestions for party themes.  They fall into four categories: Non-offensive but overdone, Sexist and Offensive, Just Plain Offensive, and Just Because it Rhymes, It Doesn’t Mean that it’s a Good Idea.
Non-Offensive, but Overdone Party Themes
You can find these in every depiction of college life ever.
  • ABC parties
  • Letter parties
  • Rubics cube parties
  • High School Steroeytpe parties
  • Blacklight parties
  • Decade Parties
  • Toga Parties
  • Movie Themed parties
Sexist and Offensive Party Themes 
These parties provide two options for costumes, one a slutty female costume, and the other, a powerful male complement.  They inevitably have the word “Ho” in the title.
  • CEO’s and Corporate Ho’s
  • Pimps and Ho’s
  • Kingtuts and Egyptian Sluts
  • Lawyer Bros and Prison Hoes
  • Lifeguard Bros and Surfer Hoes
  • GI Joes and Army Hoes
  • Gangsters and Flappers
  • Golf Pro’s and Tennis Hoes
  • Pirates and Wenches
  • Yoga Hoes and Workout Bro’s
Just Plain Offensive Party Themes:
These parties are built on stereotypes of cultures and treat these cultural trends as novelties, instead of real people’s lives
  • Crossdress party
  • Colonial Bros and NavaHoes
  • Fiesta Party
  • Cowboys and Indians
  • White Trash
Just because it Rhymes, Doesn’t Mean it’s a Good Idea Party Themes 
These party themes are either pointless, mix unrelated things or have unsavory implications.
  • Bathing Suits and Cowboy Boots
  • Kegs and Eggs
  • 80’s Lady or Pagent Baby-Three words-Honey Boo Boo.
  • Guys in Ties and Girls in Pearls
  • Black Out or Get Out-Because nothing says fun like alcohol poisoning.
Roommate and I aren’t big on drinking and want to host a party that doesn’t emphasize drinking and is still fun, clever and creative.
Any ideas for a fun, inclusive and novel party theme?  Tell us about your best parties in the comments.

Speaking Up While Female

A while back, I wrote a piece initially titled “Dear Men, You are Not Rapists.”  I received many criticisms of it, some useful and productive, while other critiques chastised me for a wide variety of offenses.  In the backlash, I became frustrated, especially with comments about how I can’t write about this on the grounds that I’m female and can’t know what it’s like to be profiled as a rapist.  So I should stop writing because well Joe Commentator thinks so.

I gave him the benefit of the doubt, asking what specifically I could write to write a parallel piece.  He hasn’t sent me any constructive criticism on how it feels, nor has he answered my requests for submissions from the male perspective.  He didn’t want to remedy the injustice.  He just wanted me to stop blogging.

I didn’t recognize it at first, but then I remembered that Daniel Tosh and the etiquette of comedy club heckling.  I remembered Anita Sarkeesian and the backlash to her comment that there might be sexism in the gaming industry.  The author in who complained about Daniel Tosh, Anita Sarkeesian, Jennifer Helper of Bioware, and Rebecca Watson of Skepchick, to name a few.

These women have nothing in common except for being guilty of Speaking Out While Female.  They receive criticisms on their techniques, asked about the validity of their arguments, their tone labeled as off-putting, or accused of not knowing what they’re talking about.  In short, they are asked to be silent.

This piece is for them.  It’s about being silenced, the shut up and leave mentality, the whole “If you don’t like comedy Daniel Tosh does, leave.” or “STFU, he wasn’t actually threatening to rape her.”  It was just a joke.  Lighten up.  Chill out.  Don’t go there.  Don’t watch that.  And if you happen to see it inadvertently, tough cookies.

 

Why is the responsibility of half the population to avoid situations that are aggressive toward them?  Why isn’t the onus on making welcoming to half the population?  We chastise people for being lewd in public because of the impact it has on other people.  Youtube is public.  The internet is public.  So, shouldn’t the same basic rules of decency apply?

Look, I’ll laugh at a good rape joke.  But not when rape is the punchline.  Because the fear of rape is ingrained in my life in ways that it is not in my male counterparts.

For example, one night I was walking from 30th Street Station in Philadelphia to the bus station, waiting for my uncle to pick me up.  It was getting dark, and I was wearing shorts and  a tshirt.  I was female and alone at night.  I waited, pacing the corner across from where I was supposed to wait.  I couldn’t actually go to the corner where I was supposed to because there are these three guys who were aggressively hocking water bottles and every day.  In fact, just that morning, they had told me to smile sweetheart.  I had had the audacity not to be smiling because I had been in a rush, and trying to get past their stand to the Metro station.  I had responded with mental finger, but I didn’t feel safe around them; they were three young guys who were pushy and much larger than me.  I knew statistically that they were no threat, but I still felt uneasy.

If I was a man, instead of evaluating would haven watching and waiting for my ride, not wondering if they would try to rape me, what restaurants were open so that I can seek shelter, I would have been able to wait in relative ease.  But because I’m a woman, socialized to be afraid, my thoughts were racing.  My backpack was heavy, and I’m not a fast runner; I debated, should I drop my laptop?  But I just bought it!  I moved around, shifted the weight in my backpack and watched and waited for my ride.  After what seemed like forever, but was really only fifteen minutes, my uncle picked me up.  Nothing had happened, just like I knew that nothing would.

This is the story of the time I almost flipped off my uncle when I was walking with my teenage sister.  He drove up behind us and honked at us.  I nearly yelled, “watch it a******!” when I asked him later, he asked, honestly befuddled, “Who else would it be? ”

My sister, barely sixteen, understood right away.

And these stories are two of many.  Only two of mine.  Ask about street harassment, sexual assault, and you’ll find that nearly everyone has a story

That, my friends, is why we are speaking out.  This is why joking that someone should be gang raped isn’t funny.  So, yes, I will speak out.  Yes, I will continue to ask people to behave decently, and to be aware of the impact their actions have on other people.

Because these things that we are just supposed to let drop, to ignore, to treat as just a joke, do not exist in a vacuum.  They exist in a culture that reinforces those same messages over and over again.  These admonitions or “suggestions” to avoid these things whittle away at our basic freedom to exist in public without being threatened or intimidated.  Don’t like the comments on Reddit?  Just ignore the “front page of the internet,” and all the news it delivers.  Don’t like rape jokes, don’t go to comedy clubs.  Don’t like the fact that the only character option you have in every single video game is a sex object with unnecessary, pixelated cleavage?  Don’t play video games.  Don’t like people asking you out in elevators?  Don’t go in elevators.  Don’t like people harassing you on the street?  You didn’t have to be out of the house in the first place.

For each cut at our personal freedom, we fight it, and each time, critics accuse us of over-reacting.  We are accused of speaking up, of over-reacting, and are subject to nasty insults and threats.  So, when we’re speaking up, we’re not speaking up in a vacuum.  We’re just asking you to listen before you accuse us of overreacting.  Think of the context in which we’re speaking.  Or ask us for a bigger picture.  Contrary to popular mythos, women don’t freak out irrationally.  There are reasons for our actions, but it’s easier to call us crazy and dismiss our claims without merit than to look for the cause or change your behavior.

Motivational Mondays-Keep Faith in Feminism

From Gloria Steinem’s “Halfway into a Feminst Century,” available in this month’s Ms, Steinem wrote an inspirational piece on the eve of the election to inspire women.  The article isn’t available publicly online yet, but I wrote down the key parts of the article, for your speed reading pleasure.

Steinem argues that we’ve gotten much further than we believe.  She reminds us, that you can’t have a backlash without a front lash.  I was moved by the lines, “Only if we get discouraged and give up our power as the major-to act, speak out and use our dollars, and votes, can the clock be turned back,”
and “But we’re not crazy- the system is crazy-and knowing that it is one of the deepest gifts of feminism.”

Steinem provides a list of the next campaigns that feminists need to wage:
  • Reproductive freedom as a human right.
  • Make reproductive freedom as a basic freedom
  • Women will only support revolution who don’t treat them as disposable and actually support their goals.
  • We will eroticize equality, with women being portrayed as equals not as sex objects.
  • Women’s movement will take up gun control.
  • Women will no longer be perceived as moral, but will promote peace
Steinem concludes her piece with this compelling argument,
“The very force of the opposition, especially to our control of reproduction should tell us how powerful we are.”
We are powerful.  And only if we surrender and cease to fight will we lose.

The Things We Google

Slut Walk

Slut Walk (Photo credit: wdroops)

Author’s Note: All stereotypes of liberals, feminists, etc. are not mine and do not resemble my political beliefs in any way.  Apologies in advance.

For those of you who don’t use WordPress, the software keeps track of how people find your blog, how many are reading it, and other useful statistics that allow us bloggers to find out what people like, so they can write more of the same.

So I check how people found my blog, and one of the google searches that lead to my blog was “slutty liberal.”  It linked to my posts on slutty halloween costumes.  (Links here, here and here, for those of you who are interested.)  My first reaction was horror- I’m not a slut!  Just because I blog about my life, and that means I share my experiences with sexual assault, and write about rape culture, I’m not a slut!

And then, I stopped myself.  I’m becoming defensive about my love life, and I have started questioning the wisdom of blogging.

As much as I say I won’t judge you for your sex life, I still twinge at the label of slut when it’s applied to me.  I’ll defend you to anyone who calls you a slut, but when the insult comes at me, I’m flustered beyond recognition.  I have to remind myself that to others, sex life that I disapprove of=woman who shouldn’t be taken seriously.  I have to remind myself that the word “slut” is a silencing technique, not a censure of their beliefs about my behavior.

I have to ignore that people associate young liberals with sluttiness, forgetting that your morals are not my morals.  I have to ignore that this is the steroetype that many critics refuse to see past.  So I continually have to prove that despite what you think of my sexuality, based on your assumptions, that I am still worth listening to.  That’s why I’m angry about being googled as a “slutty liberal.”  Just because I vote liberal doesn’t mean that I have a raging sex life.  And even if I did meet your nebulous definition of slut, it is none of your business and it has no impact on the validity of my opinions.

But I know that this won’t convince you.  So ahead and google “liberal slut.”  Or my new personal favorite, “confessions f******* my landlord sex stories.”  You’ll find political comments and women proudly claiming the title.  So to let those searching for lurid stories of threesomes and ecstasy-fueled hookups: you’re looking in the wrong place.  Also, these pre-conceived notions of slutty liberals and feminists, having abortions willy-nilly, turning innocent women into lesbians* and witchcraft, or whatever else goes on in your darkest nightmares, these notions are absolutely ridiculous!

So if it takes you calling me “slutty” to land here and you learn something, then I guess I’ve done my job.  Read on and educate yourself, my friend.

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