Weighing in on a sexism issue

There’s been a discussion/airing of grievances going on regarding a recent panel discussion at an atheist conference and the treatment of women there and elsewhere. Things got testy after some suggestions were made about women and men, and how each acts and reacts to certain behaviours. You can read the original post at Blag Hag that started this most recent round of debates on the issue, or this one from the same site trying to clarify the original article, or this one at Butterflies and Wheels that comments on video taken from that conference or even P.Z. Myers’ recent “shut up and listen to the women” post and the comments it inspired.

One of the gals in my Freethinker group has decided to start a Reasonable Women group and her decision has been met with mixed reviews. Some think it’s sexist to start a women-only meet but I’ve decided to give it a try because I’m often the only girl who turns up at pub nights and while the guys have interesting conversations, it’d be nice to talk to women, too, who might have other interests or approaches to topics that guys might not consider.

Now onto what I really wanted to write about. I’m wondering how much of the trouble between the sexes is caused by language and how each gender has been socialized to interpret it.

For example, I’m a big fan of FARK. I’m in there on a daily basis reading whatever gets posted as news, often finding myself amused by the word play used for the headline submissions. Sometimes I’m more disgusted than amused, though.

Like a recent link to the news about the new Wonder Woman and the headline Fark gave the article on Feburary 17th, 2011:

Adrianne Palicki is the new Wonder Woman. Yes, you’d like to Palicki her

How do you see that, as a humourous play on words or as something fairly obscene?

This is hardly a freak occurrence:

Fri October 29, 2010: Christina Hendricks mistaken for a prostitute on movie set. You’d solicit it

Mon September 20, 2010: Christina Hendricks goes out in public without wearing a low-cut dress or push up bustier. The Daily Mail is there. (With ‘Meh, I might still hit it‘ pics)

Thu November 18, 2010: 25 year-old smokin’ hot teacher arrested for destroying her 16 year-old student lover’s life. With “Why yes, I’d hit it too” pic

Thu February 10, 2011: Drunk woman pulls herself over after mistaking blinking bowling alley sign for police. Yeah, you’d hit it

Tue January 18, 2011: Amy Winehouse is looking hittable again

Tue December 21, 2010: First picture of woman jailed for having sex with 14-year-old boy. Yeah, you’d hit it

Tue December 14, 2010: Breaking News: Naked women are beautiful, sky is blue. With you’d hit it pic

Tue November 16, 2010: The SUPER HOT woman you picked up at the bar last night isn’t really 30-years-old like you were thinking, she’s 61, and has a youthful skin disorder (with HELL YES, you’d hit it pic)

Tue September 14, 2010: Naked woman steals taxi. Her mugshot resembles zonked-out Angelina Jolie. Cops say alcohol was involved. And yes, you’d hit it like a California gas-main eruption

You’ll notice what was catching my eye. Not just reference to physical abuse but women reduced to it’s. At least Ms. Palicki got a gender-specific pronoun. The rest got verbally treated like slabs of meat in need of tenderizing.

Sun September 19, 2010: Don’t be shy Christina, it really lowers your fap-a-bility (Not safe for work)

This one implies that women only have one purpose in the world and that’s to be masturbation inspiration. No shy women, no fatties, unless food makes them orgasm, or if they’re “plus sized” models (aka between sizes 8 and 14 – FARK headline: “Model feels pressure to stay plus sized, sometimes bigger really is better. w/pics”) and thus sexy by definition. Mind you, one of those is still considered a fetish interest and therefore won’t count as “normal” interest. In case you wonder, FARK’s headline for the junk food story:

Wed February 16, 2011: Problem:Woman has eating disorder where eating junk food induces the big ‘O’. Biggie problem:She grows into a big ‘O’. Supersize me:she whores self out to fetish web sites for cash.W/ ‘can you stop eating for a sec’ pic

This one I actually like:

Fri December 17, 2010: Florida artist forced to remove her tasteful nude sculptures from community center due to complaints such as “I can’t fap to this”

because it ironically leads to a story about prudishness and public art. (Can’t masturbate to them because you might get arrested in a public park due to indecent exposure…)

Somehow it’s completely okay and biologically justified for any and all heterosexual men to ogle any woman that walks by with sufficient legs and breasts and then try to hit on her (as was the suggestion seemingly made by some man at that atheist conference) yet art celebrating the female form has to be hidden away as inappropriate for public viewing.

Here’s a question that comes to me: does this look like I’m trying to explain how I think and why I think more people should be concerned, or does this look like I’m a bitchy pain-in-the-ass feminist who’d complain about anything?

I see this all this as evidence of a problem in our society. I wonder why guys might not see it that way. I wonder why guys don’t get offended by this stuff to the same extent a woman can. It’s saying little good about men and their (in)ability to separate their brains from their penises.

Or demonstrate evidence of brains at all. Another headline:

Police officer tells law students that “women can avoid sexual assault by not dressing like sluts.” Hilarity does not ensue

It leads to an article from the Toronto Star. It’s rape mythology and flat out wrong. The only way women can confidently avoid sexual assault is by never being around men, it seems. Lara Logan supposedly brought it on herself for the same reason.

Why is it never the fault of men who never learned how to properly behave around women? Why do men and women still fall back on these ideas as if they’re valid explanations for the shit that goes on? Yeah, okay, you can make the argument that women should dress with some sense if they’re going to be in an area where lewd men might gather but men who want to abuse women won’t care what women wear. They might use it as an excuse to molest, but it’ll never be the underlying reason why they do it. Stop blaming the clothes and start dealing with the societies and cultural problems that have created these men.

Which gets me back to what I started with in terms of language. If you’re attracted to people, why do you “hit on” them as opposed to “woo them” or describe the intent in some less abusive-sounding way? How did that phrase get into accepted vernacular in the first place? Why does it get a pass? Why is our language rife with other phrases like it? “Beat the odds.” “Attack the problem.” How much of that do we consciously notice and how much of it is unconsciously internalized yet still having an impact on the way we deal with events and people around us?

Things to think about as you go about your day.

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About 1minionsopinion

Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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4 Responses to Weighing in on a sexism issue

  1. Crystal says:

    I read about the incident you started the blog with and all the FARK references. And I think, at least, my experiences have told me from having a lot of male friends, that a lot of that language women may view as disgusting, doesn’t feel that way to men even if, the same sort of spin is put on talking about/to them.

    So I feel as if, women, since we are coming from a ‘minority status’ view, are sensitive to it, because it rings too close to a lot of things we have struggled to break free of being forced into.

    That being said, I am completely in agreement that once a woman IS offended, in a situation, even if she seems overly sensitive, her feelings about the situation are completely valid and if the males causing the offense have any substance about them, they will be more sensitive to what the friend/colleague/lover/stranger is saying and at least tone it down and act respectfully.

    Because I think that objectifying women sexually in every situation and turning them into ‘it’s’ is horrible. And men who do only that, are doing a disservice to themselves because a woman’s body is great, but her mind, is where the fabulous stuff comes from, and if he never takes the time to get even a glimpse of that, it’s akin to being completely satisfied with getting a very pretty box, and never opening it up to see what is inside.

    Also, despite that incidents like this have happened, and the FARK headlines, I think it is just as horrendous for women to hold beliefs that all men are pigs. And I should hope that when men encounter women that state things along those lines, they are just as offended as women who are feeling objectified, and they have a right to expect the women to be more sensitive as well.

    Personally, though I do think it comes down to a lot of it being that men and women have different thresholds for what’s ok to them. Sure there are still men in the world who feel women should be barefoot and pregnant, couldn’t possibly do anything as well as a man, and are property of their fathers until they are married off. But for the most part, that mindset isn’t the popular one for men that I deal with from day to day. So I just don’t feel that the FARK comments are coming from the men writing them as serious feelings about the women in their lives. So it doesn’t offend me. Maybe it’s because I’m not the subject being referred to as it. But I just hope that if sometime in the future I’m in a situation like the one in the blog and I do feel offended the men in question will live up to my expectations and be respectful. But just because there have been some that did not, I don’t feel that all of them deserve to be lumped into the same category.

  2. 1minionsopinion says:

    Insightful, and thanks for commenting. I’ve run into a few guys who don’t seem to like letting women get a word in edgewise, and others who are more than willing to give space and thought to what women have to say. And you’re right about resisting the urge to paint all men with the scum brush just because a few seem to have proven to have little sense.

    Another question I thought to ask, if women ran Fark would they have a penis tag instead of a boobies one? Or would women resist the urge to advertise stories about men based around a single body part? I think women would be hard pressed to find enough stories featuring dongs, whereas pictures of cleavage seem to be everywhere…

  3. Crystal says:

    I agree there is a lack of material to work with, but I’ll bet if you have the option to bring it up to someone at Fark having a penis tag probably just has not occurred to them because from their perspective it’s not fun, but I doubt they are about stopping someone else from having fun in the same way.

    I dunno whether Fark in it’s current incarnation, would exist without men getting it started. But that doesn’t mean women can’t enjoy it too. Women and men are different, coming from different perspectives, and it helps if we step back, and try to look from their perspective and vice versa.

    Just because men and women tend to do things differently doesn’t automatically make one or the other wrong and right. It just means we are different. So my thinking is, that so long as a man who’s first thought about a woman is ‘I want to see her tits’ doesn’t have some double standard against a woman who’s thinking ‘I want to see his penis’ then it’s an even playing field. And I think a lot of it is that women take those situations way too seriously, and men don’t take women’s concerns about it seriously enough. So women get offended, and then men shrug it off.

  4. 1minionsopinion says:

    I think your last sentence is completely the thing. A disconnect between brains and people and both “sides” deciding on what’s important in conflicting ways.

    Maybe these men see women “taking the fun out of it” because it’s a different kind of humour than we’d typically find funny? Or because women are more in tune with empathy or can sympathize better with victims and internalize it more? Could start debating a nature/nurture aspect to this, too…

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