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?

Activists and Allies-a Call to Arms

For those  of you who don’t know, I’m a huge fan of Rosie’s blog, Make Me a Sammich.  She is hilarious, and always has new insights on popular culture.  For those of you who don’t read it, you should.

Recently, I read Rosie’s amazing piece , on the impact and responsibility of men to help fight sexism.  She gave great suggestions, with concrete steps to take.  I’ve shortened them to adapt them to fit the format of this blog, but they’re worth reading in their own right.  The original suggestions are for video games and internet forums, but they are adaptable to the real world.

  1. Mockery. Use public shame to police the idiots who can’t behave. They’re social inadequates, immature losers. Let’s tell them so, loud and clear, in front of their friends.
  2. Shut them up. The right to speak in a public forum should be limited to those who don’t abuse it.  Anyone who persistently abuses others gets automatically muted. New users don’t even get the right to talk. They have to earn it, and they keep it only so long as they behave themselves.
  3. Take away their means. Make it abundantly clear that it is unacceptable, then deny him or her the opportunity to do it further.
  4. Anonymity is a privilege, not a right. Anonymity is a double-edged sword.  The default setting in all online forums that are not intended for people at risk should require real names.  A limited number of people need it in certain circumstances: children, crime victims, whistleblowers, people discussing their medical conditions, political dissidents in repressive regimes. But those people normally don’t misuse their anonymity to abuse others; they’re protecting themselves from abuse.
  5. Impose punishments that are genuinely painful.  This isn’t all that unusual; if you smoke in a non-smoking hotel room, you are typically subject to a whopping extra charge for being a jerk.

Any other suggestions to get people to be more polite and more inclusive?  Share your ideas in the comments!

From the Readers-Solving Problems

Reader Maurice Barry of Duck?  Starfish?…23 commented under an older piece about advice for the men in our lives.  In his comment, he reminded me not to stereotype all men, and that he  appreciated the reminder to mind his manners.

He has actually written a related piece, in an effort to comment about male and female friendships, familial loyalty, and men’s tendency to problem solve.

The post begins with

“One of the things that women find most annoying about men is our desire to fix things that, maybe, do not need to be fixed.”
and includes
“Because we [men] often obtain our ‘power’ from our ability to effect change we figure that is the best response, namely to actually do something; to fix whatever is wrong. What we fail to realize is that what is sought is not a solution. Frequently the solution is known and other times one is not required. What is needed instead is support and understanding.”
This is simple and beautiful.  I love that Maurice understands this, and I’m glad that he posted it where other men can learn from his wisdom.

Here is the link to the rest of the post.  Check it out.  It involves Ireland, the War, and some awesome relatives.

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?

Motivational Monday-Stop -splaining and Start Listening

For People Who Like to Explain Things

I’m particularly fond of the word priv-splaining.  It is a useful term describing a wide variety of communication problems.  In short, it means someone with privilege speaking to someone with less privilege, and they assume the other person ignorant.

I have been guilty of priv-splaining, to a boyfriend.  I’ve probably priv-splained more than I can remember, but this particular incident stays in mind.  We were at an awards ceremony and I assumed that he didn’t know about classical music.  I told him something that turned out to be wrong, and I found out when he revealed that he knew more than I did.  Oops.  I felt weird at the time, but I couldn’t put a finger on what I had done wrong.  I priv-splained.

So, that’s why I found this checklist particularly useful.

1. Do you know how much the other person knows about the subject?

If you don’t know how much they know about the topic, you should find out first.

2. Are you using your supposed expertise to prove something?

If you’re out to prove something, find a more subtle way to talk about the subject without turning into a college lecturer.

3. Are you actually listening to what the other person is saying, or are you already formulating your response?

You have to listen to the other person and then figure out what you’re going to say.  Or else you’ll miss information.

4. Are you talking about your own experience, or are you universalizing about how everyone feels? Are you explaining an experience of theirs to them?  

  Actually listen to the other person’s words, and don’t explain their experiences to them.  They have no doubt thought of your very insightful criticism before.

5. And most importantly: Do you actually know what you’re talking about?

If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you shouldn’t pretend you do.

So here you go.  Simple guidelines for having a polite, productive, and positive conversation.

Bears, Sharks and Vodka Tampons, Oh My!

It’s Not Rocket Science: Unless Your Name is Todd Akin

For my non United States readers, Todd Akin was the conservative Republican Senator who sits on the science committee, who proudly professed the belief that women cannot get pregnant from “legitimate rape” because the body has mechanisms to shut down unwanted pregnancies.

Todd Akin was, of course, wrong about pregnancies resulting from rape.  In the United States, 32,000 pregnancies a year result from rape.  But Todd Akin is far from alone in his ignorant beliefs about the female reproductive system.  I’m not going to go into great detail of all the ignorant things that have been said about rape in the US Election cycle, because that’s three posts on its own, and Todd Akin lost his re-election bid.

Instead, I shall talk about the other demonstrations of ignorance about women’s bodies.

  • Stephen King: The Infamous Locker Room Scene in Carrie.
    • Nobody bleeds that much.  Unless you’re miscarrying a baby, having your internal organs sliced to pieces, or in a Stephen King horror movie.  Who came up with this notion that women bleed buckets and buckets of blood?
  • If you’re emotional, it’s because you’re PMSing so you’re clearly “on the rag.”
    • PMS means PRE, pre as in before.  Before your period, you are not using “the rag.”  Semantics, people.
  • Shark Attacks:
    • Seriously, we can’t swim in the ocean because the shark will smell the blood on our tampons and eat us?  Who comes up with this?
  • Bear Attacks.
    • So we can’t swim because of Jaws, but we can’t go camping either, because our periods might attract a bear.  Why leave the kitchen?
  • Vodka Tampons
    • This had to be designed by a man.  Because whoever designed this has no understanding of how tampons actually work.  Tampons expand when they absorb liquid.  If they have absorbed liquid, they are too big and lose their insertability.  Also, alcohol burns.  Who wants to burn one of their most sensitive organs?
  • PMS and Mood Swings:
    • No we wont’ kill you.  We’ll just be a bit more moody than usual, although whether or not PMS is real is the subject of academic debate.
  • Women don’t poop or fart.
    • Sorry to bust your illusions, but we’re human beings first, women second.
  • HPV/Plan B makes women, especially teen girls, sex addicts, hosting orgies.
    • High on fantasy fodder, but low on evidence.
  • Women only take oral contraceptives because they’re having sex and don’t want to get pregnant.
    • Ovarian cysts, irregular bleeding, acne, …there are a myriad of reasons women take birth control, none of which are your business.
  • Asprin between the knees works as a contraceptive.  (Seriously?)

It’s not just women’s health that many people fail to comprehend.  Many people conflate statistics to justify fears about autism and vaccines, call evolution a “theory,” not understanding that the scientific and vernacular uses are different.  A large proportion of the United States population believes that President Obama is not a United States citizen.

Where is this culture of ignorance coming from?  Why is innumeracy and illiteracy so common?  Shouldn’t it be a source of shame, rather than pride?  I read somewhere that in business, there is such a stigma on not knowing something that people are compelled to make up information, sometimes with disastrous results.  But this doesn’t seem to be the case in politics.

This culture of ignorance is especially tragic when the resources to gain this knowledge are so ubiquitous.  I understand that not everyone has the abilities to spend hours pouring over Machiavelli and mathematical theories.  However, when these ignorant statements come out of those with platforms of speech, platforms where people take their word as truth, and have the ability to get the correct information, this ignorance is just sad.

Seriously, it’s not rocket science.  Unless you’re Todd Akin.  In which case, you really should resign from the House Science Committee.

Tell me, Readers, what other baseless beliefs have you heard?

Dating While Feminist-The Notebook and Romantic Gestures

Film poster for The Notebook (film) Note: This...

I’m a woman who hates The Notebook

Yes, I exist.

No, I’m not trying to falsely portray myself as a mythical being, and attract millions of dates by downplaying my love of Ryan Gosling and downplaying romantic expectations.

My hatred of the Nicholas Sparks film has nothing to do with my dating life.  In many ways, I am traditionally feminine.  But I hate the movie The Notebook. I hate Titanic, Twilight, and anything with the name Nicholas Sparks on the cover.  And yet, I am a woman.

I guess that I’ve never been a fan of romantic gestures, or big mushy romances.  I tend to be loving, but I’m not good at displaying positive emotions.  I’m too much of a pragmatist and a feminist to be swept away by Noah writing Allie a letter every day.  If it were me, I would have stopped after three months of no responses.  And if I were Allie, I would be upset over the fact that he wrote to me every single day.

Does he really have nothing better to do?

The best celluloid love story, as far as this cynic is concerned is a tie between Colnel Brandon’s love for Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility.  (Alan Rickman is unbelievable in this role.) and Carl and Ellie, the adventure-loving couple in UP.  Their romance is understated, and does not consume their lives.  (Marianne, initially allows her dreams of romance to consume her, but she matures throughout the course of the film.)

Real life romance is sweeter.  My grandfather walked an extra half an hour to walk his future wife home the first night he met her.  (They knew each other through mutual friends, so it wasn’t inappropriate.)  My father brings coffee to my mother in bed on special occasions.  He makes the coffee so she doesn’t have to, and for me, he puts my favorite mug in front of the coffee pot when I go home.  It’s the sweetest gesture that shows that you’re taking care of the other person.  (And yes, my family is obsessed with coffee.)

I don’t like romantic poems or public proposals.   And I must thoroughly confuse the Hallmark marketing team because I hate heart shaped jewelry, teddy bears, anything pink and covered in hearts, diamond necklaces, diamond jewelry in general, romantic poems, dozen roses, and candlelit dinners with violins playing.  (However, I do enjoy champagne, chocolates, and warm fluffy robes).  That’s about as romantic as I get.  My idea of an ideal romantic gift is inspired by the TV show Gilmore Girls– a coffee cart to follow me around all day and make whatever I wanted, free of charge?  Now, that’s a gift!

I wrote this piece, not to solicit gifts, or to find a date, but to explain my frustration that every single relationship article I have ever read suggests that your girlfriend wants a night in with the Notebook.  That every girl will just adore that diamond necklace you bought for her.  That every girl wants rose-petals and romance.  That’s ridiculous and unoriginal.   Most of us are happy if you pick your socks up off the floor and make dinner every once in a while.  As for romance, it’s a highly individual thing.

Women’s mags are guilty of the same thing, assuring women that your man wants tools and you in a new sexy set of underwear by Victoria’s Secret, whose advertisers are paying for four full page ads, so they’d better see revenue.  Women of non photogenic appearances, sizes, trans-women, and women dating women don’t exist, apparently.

Basically, the articles would be more helpful if they identified different types of personalities and general guidelines for gifts and romantic displays for different types of people.   These articles are, of course, needlessly heteronormative and gender-conforming.

I don’t speak for all women when I write this, of course.  Women are not monolithic entities who all respond the same way to gifts and situations.   This notion of women as different from each other expands to many notions, including but not limited to:

the bedroom, her birthday, relationships, flirting, fashion, political affiliation, level of expressiveness, communication styles, favorite TV shows, levels of self-confidence, amount of fearlessness, responsiveness to emotional stiumlii, culinary skills, level of fitness, attitudes toward money, enthusiasm for fantasy football, favorite sports team, and attraction to you.

Women are not the same.  We are human beings, with diverse interests and personalities, and you should treat us as such.  Just because we are women, does not mean that we understand the behavior of other women.  There is no “Women Code of Behavior.”  There is no “Woman Speak.”  There is only, “what does this specific women mean in this context?”

Yes, I’m a woman who hates The Notebook. Because not all women like The Notebook.  Not all women have vaginas.  Not all women wear bras.  Not all women have children or want children.  There is no definition of what makes a woman, so there is no definition of “all women.”  So stop assuming that “all women like x.”  You know what they say about you when you assume something.  Women are not a monolithic entity but a group of individuals bound together by the use of a common label-women.  What that means is entirely up to the individual woman.

What stereotypes about dating really frustrate you?  Let me know in the comments.

Author’s Note.

Just because I don’t like movie, does not mean that I am writing that all women do not like that movie.  We are individuals, and all specific dislikes and likes in this article are mine and mine alone.

Related articles

On Anger

I’m angry.

And I’m angry that I’m angry. And I’m angry that I’m angry that I’m angry. Why such convoluted phrasing?  Because I’m a woman and I therefore cannot be angry.

If I am, there are articles for the man in my life to “handle it.”  Apparently, according to the editors at Menshealth, I’m supposed to be placated by a massage, him doing housework, or some other inane thing.  And for some anger, that helps.  Elizabeth Stewart writes about this in the Daily Mail, how angry she is that she has to take a disproportionate share of the household chores.

No disrespect to Elizabeth Stewart, but not all anger stems from inequitable distribution of chores. My anger is supposed to be placated by small, trivial things, as if my anger is small and trivial.  It never occurs that I may be legitimately angry, angry at things larger than my nonexistent man for checking out the waitress.  And because society cannot fathom me being legitimately angry, we have no way of dealing with it.

I having internalized these expectations do not know how to be angry.  I don’t think I can even scream.  I’ve tried.  I’ve opened my mouth and no sound comes out.  If someone holds me up at gunpoint or tries to rape me, I don’t think I could even scream for help, for fear of being a disturbance or unladylike.  And that is the most terrifying aspect of all.

Like a good lady, I’ve tried to handle my anger in silent ways.  I’ve written angry letters.  I’ve thrown a tshirt across the room when no-one could see.   As it crumples when it hits the floor, I am ashamed.  I am horrified that I am capable of such nonexistent destruction.  And that sheer anger terrifies me-what’s wrong with me that I throw things?  Good God, I am such a barbarian!

But anger, expressed in private, is a legitimate emotion.  Why is it that as I a woman I can skip in giddiness, jump for joy, cry during that really annoying Sarah McLaughlin commercial with the sad animals, eat chocolate on a broken heart, snap because I am irritated and label it PMS, but I cannot be angry?  I can be irritated, sad, happy, annoyed.  However, I cannot be angry.

Possibly because these words, these emotions are light, insubstantial and temporary.  Anger on the other hand, is a strong word for a strong emotion.  Anger implies permanence.  Anger implies change.  Anger is legitimate. Perhaps that is why the Myth of the Angry Feminist is such a deterrent.

Anger from a non-dominant social group is a threat to the status quo.  Angry women are shamed into keeping sweet, often holding back resentment until it boils over, leaving the ones around them clueless, asking, where did that come from?    Angry black men are the threats to the dominant racial hierarchy.  Angry black women are doubly shamed.

Men get angry too.  Cis-bodied, straight white men can be angry.  But very few articles deal with angry men.  It is seen as an emotion, something they go through when something goes wrong, not a derogatory character trait.

Men are angry when a woman insults them, when their significant other cheats, when they get fired.  If they are angry because of traumatic experiences in their past, we, as a society understand this.   We understand and sympathize with Vietnam Veterans or veterans of old wars when they break out offensive stereotypes and colorful profanity.  “It’s just how he grew up,” we say.  “He doesn’t mean it, but the war changed him,” we say, ignoring the racist comments.

Angry men are angry because something happened to them, and we treat their anger as an emotion, not a defining character trait.  In contrast, angry women are angry because something is wrong with them.  Even if they have been abused, being angry at their abuser is labeled as allowing the abuser to retain too much power over them.  It is not considered healthy.  Angry victims are supposed to forgive and forget, and stop being so loud and so there.  We, as a society, want to go living our lives without the unpleasantness of rape and sexual assault, of child abuse, of discrimination, domestic violence and prejudice.  Anger forces us to acknowledge that these problems occur and that we can’t ignore them away.  No wonder it scares us so much.

But anger is real, and anger is a healthy response to injustice.  If women are people, then we as a society should allow women the same freedom to be angry that we allow men.  Anna Holmes at the Washington Post wrote, [anger] “is regularly used to discredit and dismiss serious and real frustrations by women.”  It is time that we allow women to start screaming out loud, and to acknowledge their anger as a valid emotion, not an undesirable character trait.

Dear Men, 12 Pieces of Advice for the Men in Our Lives

Film still from the famous restaurant scene

Film still from the famous restaurant scene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Update: I thoughtlessly posted this, not realizing how heteronormative it is.  My apologies.  The piece was intended for the clueless daters of any gender who prefer to date those that identify as women.

  1.  Aretha said it best; RESPECT.  Respect us, our bodies, and our opinions.  Also, remember that we are more than the sum of our reproductive organs.
  2. Women do not communicate directly.  We communicate in a more round-about way, designed to allow for disagreement without conflict.  So when we say, “Gosh, it’s late and I’m exhausted,” we mean that it’s time to call it a night.  Take the hint.
  3.  Learn to read body language; if you try the sneaky overarm movement (and believe us, we know you’re faking that yawn,) and we slide away, take the hint.
  4. Don’t call us crazy.  Unless we’ve torched your car, shaved our hair into designs of goldfish, or attempted to eat the cat.  Those are crazy actions.  Yelling at you because you’ve been dodging our calls and we just found out that we’re pregnant does not give you the excuse to say “B****** be crazy.”
  5. The exam did not rape you.  You are not going to have forced sexual intercourse with the other players in xbox live.  All you are doing is enabling rapists to get away with rape.  So stop.
  6. Our periods do not invalidate our emotions.  They just diminish our ability to tolerate things.  Besides it’s not like men don’t have hormonal cycles, either.  Ironically enough, PMS is an influx of testosterone.
  7. Women are not monolithic entities.  What makes one woman happy may not work for another woman.
  8. Women do not owe you their attention, time or affection.  Even if you have been her friend forever, you are NOT entitled to her love.  So stop whining about the Friend Zone.
  9. Women generally like sensitive men.  That does not mean, whiny spineless symphocant.  It means a man who stands up for himself, is respectful, and understands how to communicate.  The whole whiny spineless slob versus the puppy kicking, womanizing jerk is an arbitrary binary.
  10. Some women don’t want to have sex with men.  That does not mean that they just need the Right experience (aka with you.)  That does not mean that they will fulfill your fantasies.  So stop asking them that.
  11. The same goes for women who do want to have sex with men.  If they have not expressed any interest in sex with you, don’t ask them.
  12. Saying something offensive is like stepping on people’s toes.  Sometimes you did it intentionally.  But most of the time, when you step on someone’s toes, you didn’t mean to.  But you apologize anyway because regardless of your intent, you hurt them.

What do you think?  Is there anything else I missed?  Leave advice in the comments!

Sit Like a Lady?

I sit like a woman.  I cross my legs, shove my knees together, and fear showing my underwear.   Even if I’m wearing pants. I realize now that sitting in such a controlled way requires more concentration and energy than it does for a man.  When I move, I have to remember to cross my legs, readjust my skirt, and take up as little space as possible.  I ask myself if my seating position is remotely provocative.  Every time.

If I have to pay attention to the minute details of how how I’m conducting myself, I have less mental facilities to use for curing cancer. winning elections, or running a tri-athalon.

I read somewhere that women sit in a small area, whereas men spread out, take up more physical space and dominate the discussion, especially in a mixed group.  So, maybe I should sit more like a man.  Lean forward, spread my legs to take up the full chair, stretch my legs out on the floor.  But it’s hard to change the way you sit, hard to undue years of social conditioning.

   Do you find yourself sitting like a lady and resenting it?  Or am I reading too much into my sitting patterns?