Posts in category Sexism
The conservative social forces conspiring to roll back the clocks on women's reproductive rights have much in common with the forces that tried to keep women from having voting rights. In an attempt to undermine suffragettes' struggles to gain rights that men were able to enjoy, these women were demonized as ugly, masculine, bad mothers, morally challenged, promiscuous, childish, and emasculating to men. Nearly 100 years have passed since then, but not much has changed:
“The social pressures that resisted suffrage can’t be underestimated. ... It wasn’t just that women had to fight for the right to vote, but women had to fight for the right to speak in public to be able to advocate for their own rights. ...The battle for suffrage wasn’t just about the legal right to vote, but it was also about women’s ability to be public figures, not confined to the home. It was more broadly about women’s role in society. ... "The messages you find on anti-suffrage postcards from the 1910s are not dissimilar from what you might hear from Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly today in the 2010s. Suffragettes were drawn as conniving coquettes, ugly, mean spinsters or, worse, ugly, mean wives who left their families helpless as they attended town-hall meetings. ... “That was a common theme, that if women were given political power they would crush men and upset the gender roles in society, particularly in the family. ... “We operate with this zero-sum mentality, which is, if women gain rights, men lose them. ... You see the same sort of idea that if people of color or ethnic minorities make gains, whites therefore lose something. So if men only understand their identity in relationship to being bigger than women, then it’s a trade-off. You see it in dozens of anti-suffrage postcards, showing men being hurt if women advance. Human beings seem to operate with this mentality where if you expand the rights of some, it diminishes the rights of others, instead of collectively expanding the rights of all of us as a people.”
Read more here:
Madeleine Albright, 1st woman to become United States Secretary of State, appointed by former President Bill Clinton ...
In the past several years, Halloween has morphed into something really scary -- scary enough to make some of us want to scream. But not because of the blood and gore, creepy decorations, or traditionally spooky costumes.
Halloween used to be the day when you could put on a disguise and pretend to be someone else for the night. For women, it could be a reprieve from the daily pressure to look thin, beautiful, and sexy. But instead of a day off from that pressure, Halloween is now a day to amp it up. Nearly every option for women is a sexy take on a traditional costume, from fetishized caricatures from porn to the totally absurd, such as the Sexy Hamburger, the Sexy Crayon, the Sexy Skittles, the Sexy Sponge Bob, and the Sexy Nemo (the clown fish from Finding Nemo). I just ... I ... have no words:
But it's not all just harmless fun. Even child characters in fairy tales have been made into sexed-up costumes for women, e.g., Sexy Little Red Riding Hood, Sexy Goldilocks, and Sexy Alice in Wonderland. (See more examples here).
In addition to fairy tale characters, here are a few other ways for women to dress up as sexy little girls -- the Sexy Girl Scout, the Sexy Schoolgirl, and the Sexy Baby (WTF is wrong with people?!):
What's so troubling about these costumes is that:
"... [M]any of the 'sexy' costumes are highly sexualized versions of characters who are supposed to be little girls ... The fact that many women dress up as sexy little girls points to both the sexualization of female children and the infantilization of adult women."
The sexualization of girls teaches them early on that their value lies in their appearance, their bodies, and their sexuality. The American Psychological Association found that sexualization damages girls' feelings of self-worth, impairs their mental functioning, and contributes to eating disorders. In other words, it fucks girls up. The infantilization of adult women reinforces attitudes that women should be treated as naive, dependent, and incapable of making intelligent decisions or holding leadership roles. In other words, it fucks women over.
Another disturbing trend in sexy costumes is linking sexuality with violence. Here are some creepy sexy costumes, such as female versions of horror movie serial killers -- Sexy Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Sexy Jason (Friday the 13th), and Sexy Michael Myers (Halloween). I guess the Sexy Body Bag (seriously, who comes up with this shit?!) fits in here as well :/ :
Of course, many Halloween costumes are intended to be frightening or gory, but turning a male horror movie killer that often targets scantily-clad female victims into a scantily-clad female horror movie killer has some interesting connotations. Horror movie killers tend to murder (punish) the sexually open "whores" early on, while the good girl "virgins" often escape (reward). Underlying the sexy female killer is a misogynistic fear of female sexuality and power -- it threatens conservative social attitudes about women owning our sexuality and our bodies. It also sparks our own conflicted feelings about sexuality or our insecurities about other women being competition or threats. Since all of these fears are uncomfortable, they must be buried or "killed".
Clearly, there are lots of "sexy" costumes for women, but those for men are a bit different. This Tumblr page has tons of examples of the same costume idea, but different versions for him and her. The differences are quite striking when you look at them side-by-side. His costumes are typically silly, while hers are always sexy. Here are his-and-hers versions of Tigger, Skunk, Firefighter, and Astronaut:
Making sexy versions of non-sexy characters like Tigger or Skunk invariably make sexiness cross into absurdity. However, sexing-up women's costumes of traditionally male careers, such as Firefighter or Astronaut, is another breed of animal. First, how could women realistically fight fires in a mini-skirt, garters, and fishnets or work in zero gravity in a mini-skirt and a top that low-cut? The answer is that they can't. And that speaks to deeper cultural beliefs about what women can and can't do. Underlying sexy costumes such as these are sexist beliefs about a woman's role. This reinforces beliefs that we're primarily sexual objects and that we don't belong in certain careers or positions of power unless we're there to support men.
So far, we've only looked at sexy costumes for women, but men have a few choices as well: the Breathalizer (Get it? You "blow" into that straw between his legs), the One Night Stand, and the Pimp (Parents -- make sure to teach your sons early that by treating women like hos, they'll be rewarded with money and status!):
There's obviously a discrepancy between men's and women's sexy costumes:
"... [W]hen women go sexy for Halloween, it usually means being seen as a sex object for others. When men go sexy, it means joking about how men should be sexually serviced, have access to one night stands, or being in charge of and profiting from women’s bodies. A different type of 'sexy' entirely."
That's it. I'm skipping Halloween. These are all just too scary for me. :/
I've written previously about the negative impact of sexism in politics here and also in the article "Are You Voting for the Hot One, the Bitch, or the Mom?" Here's a recent example of how women also perpetuate this sexism.
During New York Senate debates, moderator Liz Benjamin — a reporter from YNN from NY1 -- actually asked female Senate candidates Kirsten Gillibrand and GOP challenger Wendy Long if they'd read Fifty Shades of Grey. WTF kind of question is that? And would a similar question ever have been asked if the candidates were male? "So Senator Bob & challenger Joe, tell me -- have you watched any Girls Gone Wild videos lately?" It would be absurd ... and just as absurd as asking these women about Fifty Shades of Grey.
By asking female political candidates such an inane question or focusing on their appearance, Research has shown that it damages the credibility of all women who try to run for political office or otherwise hold positions of power:
"[The] unfair treatment of women candidates is extremely detrimental to their campaigns ... [You can] identify sexism by using the reversibility test, which states that if terms are being used for women that wouldn’t be used for men, it is sexist. Would this question be asked if it had been a man standing at the podium? Why were these two professional and qualified women asked about a saucy romance novel? Not only did it unfairly trivialize an otherwise well-worded and intellectual match, but asking the candidates about such a sexually explicit novel is essentially asking them about their sexual interests. These comments lead the viewer to see these candidates in an unprofessional, inappropriate, and sexualized light—producing attitudes that gender stereotype and draw attention away from the issues at hand."
Watch the video here:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu further explains the concept:
"[The African tribal philosophy of] Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity. ... A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed."
Love this! Ellen DeGeneres' opinion & fake commercial about the stupidity of Bic's "Pens for Her". Enjoy!:
In today's Depressing News of the Day, you may want to know (or not) that there's a Facebook page called “12 Year Old Sluts”. Fans of that page post pictures of young girls who dress or act "too sexy" or even post "sexy" pictures of themselves. You can imagine what happens next:
It features, among other jokes and memes, the kind of idiotic 'sexyface' pictures pre-teen girls take of themselves in the bathroom mirror. The founders of the page encourage their commentariat to 'put these sluts in their place,' with shame tactics that would make the meanest mean girls blush.
Wow -- let's go slut-shame some little girls. What upstanding, compassionate human beings we are. Why do sluts need to be put "in their place" in the first place? Well, it's partly because kids can be insecure little bullies. But it's also because they've somehow internalized that female sexuality is threatening and shame is a powerful tool to dampen it.
On the "12 Year Old Sluts" Facebook page, a less-conventionally attractive girl made the mistake of posting a picture of herself in the typical bathroom-mirror-camera-phone pose, and the insults came pouring in.
The crux of the problem for this girl ... is that she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one side, there is the crushing pressure to be sexually desirable. She is aware of this pressure even before she caves to it, and at a much younger age than adults would like to believe. ... On the other side, [she] knows that she loses the desirability game if she caves to the desires she has inspired. ... [She] intuitively understands that she loses hers if people think she’s too accessible.
We're damned if we're too sexy and damned if we're not sexy enough. It's a trap. So why would she post that picture then? Why would a girl put herself in the position of being publicly critiqued and ridiculed by cruel internet strangers? It's not unlike the reasons why teenage girls and adult women would post their pictures to websites like Hot or Not (feel free to Google it if you want, but I'd prefer not to give them the traffic), or hundreds if not thousands of other online forums. Many girls -- and women -- act in desperate ways in that elusive search for validation.
I still remember the name of the girl who gave the first blowjob in middle school. Minutes after it happened, her name had worked itself from one end of the building to the other. You can bet that no one gave two shits who was on the receiving end; he remained anonymous and she watched one afternoon’s adolescent experiment destroy the desirability she’d spent years cultivating.
As girls grow up, we learn that it's important to be pretty little princesses and to be sweet and nice to others. This teaches us that our value lies in our appearance and our ability to please. Boys learn to be tough, confident, but unemotional -- which of course has its own downside. It's incredibly unfair to teach girls that they're supposed to be pretty and pleasing, and then turn around and punish them for doing exactly that. Amanda Todd is a heartbreaking example of this. Amanda was a 15-year-old who some called a "slut" after topless pictures of her were made public by the GROWN MAN who flattered her into posting them for him. This asshole-who-deserves-to-be-in-jail stalked her and made true on his threat to share them with her peers after she wouldn't give the perv a "show". She ended up committing suicide due to the torment and bullying. If that weren't bad enough, the slut-shaming has continued after her death. The pressure to be sexy, the need to be admired, and shaming a girl for doing just that can have tragic consequences.
The wiggle room between the rock and the hard place—that sweet spot between being wanted and being respected—is all but non-existent. It is a sliver, a tiny wedge, the narrowest of alleys. Adult women spend years trying to find it, alternating between extremes, recalibrating, shooting for appreciation without denigration. Look at me, but not for too long. Want me, but don’t try so hard. Think that I’m beautiful, but know that I’m classy. But not too classy. Lady in the street, freak in the bed. You know the drill. ... But teenagers? Teenagers have it worst of all. Not only do the rock and the hard place still matter more than anything, but they have yet to fully develop the ability to scope out long-term ramifications. Their skins are still baby thin and easily pierced. They want to be noticed and ignored, be thought exceptional and average, all at the same time.
It's a balancing act between two extremes -- the respectable virgin and the unrespectable* whore. And it's all bullshit.
*I looked up "unrespectable" to make sure it was a word and here's the first response that popped up (you can't make this shit up):
respectable - characterized by socially or conventionally acceptable morals; 'a respectable woman'
Adj. 1. unrespectable- unworthy of respect
"A respectable woman". The problem isn't just one immature and mean Facebook page. You know there's a problem with society when even the dictionary is a slut-shamer.
Excerpt from my upcoming book:
It matters whose stories get told.
... and your staring, your leering, your hissing, your kissing sounds, etc. (P.S. To the "gentlemen" last night at El Pollo Loco - you're at a chicken joint for Christ's sake. Get your own damn breasts & thighs and stop leering at mine. Assholes.)
During the second Presidential Debate, while Mitt Romney explained how concerned he is about fairness and equality in the workplace, a meme was born. Someone quickly set up a Tumblr page called Binders Full of Women and it's since gone viral. Here's the infamous binder comment:
"In response to a young woman named Katherine Fenton's question about females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn, Gov. Romney talked about how when he was elected in Massachusetts, he made 'a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.' He continued, 'I went to a number of women's groups said 'Can you help us find folks?' and they brought us whole binders full of women!' ...
First of all, who SAYS something so completely condescending and sexist like that -- referring to potential female hires as 'binders full of women'?! Sure, blame that tired old excuse that 'words don't always come out the right way,' but there's a reason that phrase jumped out at people. It's because it reflects how Mitt Romney really feels about women."
The Tumblr page has quite a few "binder" memes, but here are a couple of my personal favorites:
See more here. :)
Badass of the Week: Australia's 1st female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, for brilliantly calling out conservative opposition leader, Tony Abbott, on being a sexist douchebag:
Grab some popcorn and watch her rip into the smug-looking bastard:
"I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man, I will not. Not now, not ever. What I won't stand for, what I will never stand for is the leader of the opposition peddling a double standard, a standard he has not set for members of his own front bench. ...
"If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia he doesn't need a motion in the house of Representatives, he needs a mirror.
"I was offended by the sexism, by the misogyny of the Leader of the Opposition cat calling across this table at me as I sit here as prime minister [saying], 'If the prime minister wants to make an honest woman of herself…' something that would never have been said to any man sitting in this chair. ...
"He has said, 'If it's true that men have more power, generally speaking, than women, is that a bad thing?' [and] 'What if men, by physiology or temperament, are more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?'"
"He can apologise for standing next to signs [about me] saying, 'Ditch the Witch.'"
No fair -- I want cool ranch!
They'll pay for the erection, but not the protection. This ad is for a product that treats impotence. It's covered by (taxpayer-funded) Medicare and (employer-subsidized) insurance plans. Where's all the moral indignation and talk of religious beliefs now? Oh that's right -- it's only a moral issue when it has to do with female sexuality. A dick vacuum is a valid healthcare need, but not those slut pills.
Woman goes out on a pleasant date with a seemingly nice guy. Guy sends a text the next day, hinting at sex. She politely lets him know that she's not ready for a sexual relationship yet. The conversation quickly deteriorates, with him calling her "bitchy," "mean," and "crazy". Here's an excerpt from her open letter to him:
"You didn’t seem to think I was too bitchy, mean, or crazy literally 15 minutes earlier when you texted me saying you wanted to see me again. What changed? What changed is that I said something that you didn’t like. I told you, in response to a flirty-sounding text, that I wanted to take sexual stuff slowly. But it really doesn’t matter what I said, does it? I said something that you didn’t like. That made me 'bitchy,' 'mean' and 'crazy.'
... In our culture, 'crazy,' 'bitchy' and 'mean' are three of the worst words that you can call a woman. Those words you used are dismissive on purpose. Those words are intended to shut a woman down, because women know society doesn’t like mean, crazy bitches. Got the message loud and clear, sweetie."
But there's more to it. When a man calls a woman a "crazy bitch," not only does it dismiss her feelings, but it also alleviates his own feelings of rejection. Instead of confronting his insecurities, he'll defensively blame the woman and project onto her his "crazy" (i.e., confusing or embarrassing) emotions. She becomes the crazy one, while he's acting in a perfectly reasonable manner. And she's still the crazy one -- even if he gaslights her and instigates the "craziness." Certainly, it's possible for women to act "crazy" or "bitchy" at times, but these terms are used way more frequently to dismiss and silence us for speaking our minds or making a man feel uncomfortable.
The author of the article offers her former suitor a crash course in Communication for Grown-Ups:
"Now, this could just be my craziness coming out, but I have this radical idea that it might be easier to just listen to what a woman is saying, file those little bits of emotion away in your brain, and then make a thoughtful judgment call based on what she communicated. No one is saying you have to do what she asks. No one is even saying you have to stick around with her! But changing your own behavior to listen and — crazy, radical idea here again — communicating with her your thoughts might yield better results than writing off anyone who says something you don’t like ..."
That just seems crazy enough to work! Read the rest of the article here.
Most of us are familiar with this iconic WWII image of the sailor kissing the nurse. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite what it seemed. This article, “The Selective Blindness of Rape Culture,” provides context behind what really happened.
"... George and Greta were perfect strangers. We learn that George was drunk, and that Greta had no idea of his presence, until she was in his arms, with his lips on hers. ... 'It wasn’t my choice to be kissed. The guy just came over and grabbed! ... I did not see him approaching, and before I knew it, I was in this vice grip. ... You don’t forget this guy grabbing you. ... That man was very strong. I wasn’t kissing him. He was kissing me.' ..."It seems pretty clear, then, that what George had committed was sexual assault. ... [Accounts of the event] continue to talk about the picture in a whimsical, reverent manner, 'still mesmerized by his timeless kiss.' George’s actions are romanticized and glorified; it is almost as if Greta had never spoken."