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?

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.

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.

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.

Dear Men, I’m Sorry for Thinking that You’re Rapists

alone at night

alone at night (Photo credit: Michael Speed)

Note: I want people to hear what people honestly think about rape culture, but overly aggressive attacks are not welcome here.  You are free to debate comments however much you’d like.  No ad hominem attacks and personal threats.   No cursing.  Keep it civil.  Check my comment policy for full instructions.  

I wrote a follow up piece, addressing some of the criticisms.  In Response to Dear Men.  In response to some of the responses I got, I decided that I needed to make this piece more approachable and more inclusive.  

Stop me if this sounds familiar.

You and another male friend are walking out of the movie theater.  It is late, nearing midnight, and most of the cars have left the parking lot.  You are walking by yourselves, talking about the plot and the mind-blowing ending of the movie.  About thirty feet in front of you you see a lone girl, walking back to her car.  She hears your voices, looks back, clutches her purse close to her, and walks faster toward her car.  Perhaps she pulls out a phone and starts talking loudly about where she is and that she’ll be home soon.  While walking as quickly as she can, she keeps shooting you nervous glances until she gets in her car and drives away.

You look at her and realize-she thought that you were going to rape her.  To you, this is ridiculous.  You would never rape anyone!  You respect women!  Rapists are evil, awful creatures!

You are livid that she could profile you as a rapist.

Why is that?  To put it simply, women are socialized to avoid rape and it is an issue that women are constantly, vaguely aware of.  We live in a rape culture, that blames women for their own rapes, asks them why they were alone, why they trusted that friend, weren’t their eyes saying yes, aren’t you sure that this wasn’t legitimate rape , why didn’t they watch their drink, what kind of pants they were wearingwhy were they drinking in the first place, why were they out at night, why were they therewhy were they out of the kitchen in the first place?

 We live in a world where we are seen as sexual objects first and human beings second.  So forgive us for being hyperaware of the threat of rape.  

Before you say that we’re overreacting, dress too provocatively, blame the media, use the word “feminazi” or ask how you are supposed to get a date, stop and listen.  We are taught that one in four women are raped or suffer an attempted rape in their lifetime.  Commonly cited statistics reveal anything from one in four to one in six.  A 2003 study by the United States Department of Justice found the number to be one in six.

The same study revealed that one in thirty-three men will be raped in their lifetime.  Yes, rape can happen to men, as well, and this is a case of our current system hurting men and women.  This system benefits nobody.  And that is a subject for another piece.  But this piece is about why many women profile strange men as potential rapists.  Because rape, at least according to the FBI, is a highly gendered crime, with 90% of victims as female.   In other studies, twelve percent of men will admit to what amounts to the legal rape, as long as you don’t use the “r-word.”

On the streets, going about our daily lives, women are often subject to a myraid of sexually charged micro-agressions known as street harassment. We are told to smile, we get sexually inappropriate looks, horns honked, catcalls, approving whistles, a glimpse into the special bond between street harasser and his hand and a series of invitations to examine various stranger’s anatomy.  If we refuse to engage these would be suitors, we become ungrateful, too-good, entitled, stuck up princesses.   These conversations go from, “Hellooo, sweetheart!” to “@#$% you, you @#$%^ing !@#$%!”  in about three seconds.  It is not a pleasant experience, nor is it a rare one. Many women have been dealing with street harassment since they hit puberty. There is no time that we are safe from street harassment.  We can’t even go to the grocery store without being harassed. While walking alone at night, in a potentially vulnerable situation, the presence of another, larger person may trigger these memories and existing anxieties.

In short, women, homosexuals, transsexuals and other persons of relative disadvantage have been dealing with sexualized threats and violence for many years.  They may know stories of friends and neighbors who have suffered rape, abuse, stalking, etc.  They have often taken self defense classes, and admonished to carry a whistle and a weapon.  But, in the end, each person chooses his or her own risk tolerance.

From a mathematical perspective, we know that you pose no threat to us, that you are statistically unlikely to rape us, mug, us or beat us up.  We know that men are the recipients of more non-sexualized, violent street crime and muggings.  We know that you are good men, who really have no intention of harming us.  And we certainly hate being uneasy or worrying about rape.  But we still are socially conditioned to be afraid.  Rape is a pervasive fear for women in our society, and even though we know that we will most likely know our rapists, it is easier to pin the nebulous fear on a stranger at night than those you trust.

Because we are in a position of discomfort and at a relative disadvantage, we are more likely to be at perfect ease with you in public.  You are bigger and generally more physically imposing than us.  Also, we are not socialized to fight, so fighting is not a natural response to a threat for us, and we are not always confident in our abilities to defend ourselves.  So you have two options.  You can choose to say, “Not my feelings, not my problem” and continue on your merry way.

Or you can realize that you don’t live in a vacuum, and your presence impacts other people.

Fortunately, this is easy to do.

1. Be aware of the space around you and the other person.  Is he or she alone?  Think, if I was a dangerous man, would a woman be safe with me in this situation?

Here’s how you determine that.  Assume that you suddenly were replaced with your evil twin, who immediately attacks the other person.  Is anyone around to come for help?  If the other person screams, will anyone hear them?  Are there any lights around, open stores which he or she can flee into?  If the answer is no, don’t label yourself as a threat.  Don’t invade the other person’s space.  Don’t stare at him or her.  Don’t try to hit on them.

2. Keep walking, just shuffle your feet to make them aware of your presence.  It would be frightening to see a person fifty pounds heavier and seven inches taller just appear behind you, seemingly out of nowhere.  You can also hum quietly, shuffle your feet, or say “excuse me.”  As a child, you were taught to say, excuse me so that people would move out of the way and not get hurt.  It was simple manners, to make the other person aware of your presence.  The same rules still apply.

3.  If you are waiting somewhere with a stranger.   Polite converstion is just that, polite conversation.  If you are making polite conversation with someone you are interested in pursuing a relationship with, read the other person’s body signals.  If they are merely being polite, it is not an invitation to flirt or a form of foreplay.   If your conversational partner is giving curt, one word answers and looking away or at his or her book, headphones, phone, etc, back off.

4. Be careful with elevators.  Elevators do not have an escape route, because if they break, you are trapped in a small metal box.  If you and another person are sharing an elevator at night, read the other person’s body language.  If she is not engaging you, don’t engage her.  Just get in the elevator, press your floor button first, and let her press the button for her own floor.  Or if you feel like being polite and pressing both buttons, push yours first.  Entering your floor first signals that you won’t follow her.

5. Some people are more afraid of elevators than others.  So observe the body language of the other person.  If they are abjectly terrified of you, of the elevator, of the whole environment, let them go first.   For a women who looks two steps away from a panic attack, let her go first.  I know that it’s not egalitarian, but she will spend the next minute or two waiting for the elevator alone, eyes frantically skimming the area surrounding her, headphones in, music off and keys jammed between her fingers, ready to attack the next person who invades her space.  The elevator will come and she will breathe a huge sigh of relief, hitting the close door button as fast as humanly possible.  The sooner she gets home the sooner she feels safer, so be a compassionate person and let her get in the elevator first.

Most women are really not afraid of elevators.  Most of us are as caustious in an elevator as we are walking down the street.  The only reason I’m writing about elevators is that there is no exit hatch, so a bit more awareness is called for.  We just want you to be aware that elevators have the potential to strand us in between floors with a stranger.  So, I’m not asking for chivalry, to protect the delicate, defenseless woman.  I’m asking for manners, to show some compassion for a person who looks like he or she will have a panic attack at any moment.  It goes both ways, I promise.  In the same way, if you are obviously frightened and I seem to be scaring you, I’ll be happy to let you have the elevator.  There is nowhere that I need to be so badly as to induce a panic attack in another person.

6. Don’t be that guy, that drunken aggressive jerk who harasses women at night.  We are already edgy, we already don’t know you, you’re acting really aggressive and horny, and the drinking has stripped your self control.  You are doing a really good job of convincing us that you might indeed rape us.

7. Don’t make sexually charged comments to a woman alone at night.  Just don’t.

8.  Tell your male friends that they too can avoid being profiled as threats if they show basic consideration for personal space and don’t act predatory.  Explain that all they “Heeey baby’s” make women less likely to trust men, and that how much that impacts you.  Tell your male friends off when they are drunkenly harassing people.  A simple, “knock it off,” goes a long way.

9. Don’t laugh at a rape joke, or make comments that a woman was “asking for it.”  These actions perpetuate the culture in which rape is trivialized, not taken seriously by law enforcement, and hurts both male and female victims.

Dear men, I know that you are not rapists.  I don’t want to think you’re a rapist, I hate every second of wondering if you’re a rapist, and I know that statistically, you are no threat to me.  I hate feeling guilty for having what my left brain knows is an irrational fear.

But at the time, it does not seem irrational, in the context of millions of sexually charged micro-agressions, and a culture that accuses me of asking for it.  With this framing my thoughts, I still feel a twinge of uneasiness when I see you pushing boundaries, especially when I am in a vulnerable situation.  If you follow these guidelines, you demonstrate yourself as non-threatening, and a good man.

Final Words: The statistics and critiques do not invalidate the emotions that people feel, especially in vulnerable situations.  This piece is about how to cope with the fact that for both real and legitimate and media induced fears that real people have.  It’s extremely rude to invalidate people’s feelings, to insinuate that they should feel differently than they do, based on a noramative model of what society “ought to be.”  I would like a society where I don’t fear rape, where I make equal pay to a man, where people don’t get beaten up for loving an adult with the “wrong” genitals.  I am fighting to make that society, and part of the way to become that society is to examine our current society, to figure out what needs to change.  That means, we need to talk honestly and honestly listen.    

So let’s fight for a fairer society, and in the meantime, as a part of that transformative process, please be aware of the impact your presence has on others.  

Thank you.

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In Honor of B. F. Skinner (Training the Men in My Life)

      My roommate and I have a mutual friend who, although kind with good intentions, can be socially awkward.  Although a loyal friend, he remains unable to read basic conversational cues.  

       This has frustrated us to no end, especially when we want to sleep or study and he still wants to chat.  We have had to tell him specifically, “when we say that we are tired and it is late, it is time for you to leave.”  

      This was my roommate’s idea.  My idea was to train him like B. F. Skinner’s animals, use positive reinforcement for correct behavior and negative reinforcement for bad behavior.  Apparently, it’s bad manners to use a spray bottle for negative reinforcement.  “Bad friend.” Spritz.  Apparently that only works on the Big Bang Theory.

       If my friend is a model of American manhood, then we have a problem.  We aren’t educating our boys on social graces.  Granted, I have male friends who do understand and can read social cues, but it is exacerbating to watch the boys around us act like children.  

      In a highly unofficial poll of my friends, I have learned that the girls are more focused on school and work, while the boys are focused on parties and girlfriend troubles.  They handle breakups and relationship issues with explosive anger, while the girls seem much more in control.  I’m worried that my life will be like a Judd Apathow movie soon enough.  

      So, our options are training the socially oblivious or living with the dudebros from Knocked Up.  I’ll take training the socially oblivious, even if I can’t use a squirt bottle.  

Inspired by the Big Bang Theory.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euINCrDbbD4&feature=related