Thursday, September 20, 2012

Let's Discuss Hugo Schwyzer

Today was kind of heart breaking in terms of reading XOJane. On the one hand, I found some new sources for stylish tights for my fat ass. On the other hand, I see that they're yet another women-oriented site that has given Hugo Schwyzer an audience. XOJane is kind of a mixed bag. They'll write about awesome feminist stuff, and then have a columnist who thinks Tucker Max and his misogynist rape jokes is HILARIOUS and worthy of interview and who also is super racist in a nice-white-lady way. But that's kind of the low level background radiation of festering ignorance we all live in.

Hugo Schwyzer, for those of you who somehow missed it, is a very loud and influential voice in feminism which is kind of ironic or disgustingly sad, depending on your point of view. Raised in utter affluence and privilege, this able bodied white man coasted lazily through life, drinking and doing drugs and sexually assaulting women who were too stoned/drunk to say no. I mean, he admits this. He straight up admits that sometimes you (he)  just can't tell if a woman wants to have sex or not so shucks it's not RAPE rape if she's unconcious, amiritedudes? The concept of enthusiastic consent is apparently lost to him. He also has blogged, more than once, about the time his girlfriend came to him for help. She'd been beaten by her dealer, perhaps raped, and was strung out on drugs. He "had sex with her" (she was in NO position to give consent, which makes it rape), described it as "hot," and then decided they both needed to die. So as his battered, raped, strung out, doped up girlfriend trustingly slept he turned on the oven's gas so they'd both die. He tried to murder his girlfriend. He has admitted this more than once, as a casual kind of thing, like it's just some wacky adventure people have. He's also admitted that the cops didn't question him about it because he's a rich white dude with and influential family.

He's taken those blog posts down on his lawyer's advice.

His string of ex-wives and ex-girlfriends want nothing to do with him and refuse to talk to him, which frustrates him because that means he can't "make amends" as part of his sobriety. It doesn't, however, prevent him from writing about them in public and making a living off of intimate private details of theirs. Boundaries, what are those? Sorry, bucko. Changing a person's name while discussing her family and the overseas trip you took isn't enough to hide her identity from anyone who knows you for any length of time. Let me restate this: women who have refused contact with Schwyzer, who will not talk to him, are funding his lifestyle as he writes about intimate, personal, private details of their lives, sex habits, and genitalia.

Boundaries? What the fuck are those?

He "dated" students, as a college professor. Including 4 different ones in one weekend on a school trip he chaperoned. When he was discovered, he was tasked with writing professorial codes of conduct barring student/teacher interaction. Ooooh, now THERE is a punishment. Meanwhile, I've got this hen house out back and I'm about to buy a fox to guard it. Who else but a predator knows how to write rules governing predatory behavior? He likes his victims young, apparently, and was super eager to get involved in writing sex tips for teenagers, submitting a bunch of stuff to a site that was later horrified to find out that, ha haaaaa! He raped and tried to murder his girlfriend.

While organizing slutwalk, he managed to turn the focus on men, and referred to his work as "slut herding."

He's advised women that they need to let men spooge on their faces because men are just so JUDGED and SHAMED for their (heterosexual) sexuality and not gleefully embracing facials is harming men.

He's racist and classist (no big surprise there) and talks a LOT about his WASP upbringing, not in a "I'm aware of my privilege" sort of way but in a "I'm a WASP, don't forget it" way. He's blogged derisively about non-white non-affluent students, and was also one of Amanda Marcotte's big supporters for her book that featured Brave White Jungle Exploring Women fighting off Ignorant Jungle Savages.

He's a professor of women's/gender studies, teaching women's/gender studies classes, despite not having majored or minored in women's/gender studies. Because people who've ACTUALLY studied women's/gender studies are just so rare, right? So hard to find.

But it's ok, you guys, because he's a born again Christian. God has forgiven him. Why can't you?

Hugo Schwyzer is a paternalistic, condescending sexual predator who keeps being given platforms on feminist and women interest sites. Sure--- SURELY--- there are some women out there who could be given those slots? I really have no interest in reading the lascivious details of some dude's boner as he tries to gas his girlfriend to death/pull a tampon out of the vagina of a woman he married who now loathes him/claims that gosh! it's just too hard to tell if a woman wants sex or not! Why do people keep giving a voice to him? Why is there a market for what he's selling? Why is a man's voice given weight over womens' voices? Why is his message so important when it's so harmful?

Hugo Schwyzer gets paid to eviscerate women, to splay their secret innards and splash about in their guts, gleefully, while talking about his erection and how hard it is to be a man. He gets paid to talk shit about his the women who have removed themselves from his life, to reveal their ugly bits and their secrets and mortifications. He makes his living off the pain of other people, pain he has caused.

He's a rich, able bodied, heterosexual cis-male and that, apparently, is all a person needs to be considered an expert on a topic he has no first hand or scholarly experience in. He silences women. And every time women give him a platform to speak, we take part in our own silencing.

Friday, September 7, 2012

"Real Women"

"Real Women Have Curves" came out in 2002. It's a compelling coming of age story, but also the story of growing up Latina in a racist white culture, and growing up fat and being told to hate your body. Anna, her sister, and her mother work in a factory (with other women) sewing couture dresses for less than minimum wage, beautiful dresses that are never larger than a size seven. Because that's what a woman is, right? Wealthy, white, and slender. That's what we're all told being a real woman is: airbrushed, slender, white perfection. It's on the tv, in movies, in just about every ad ever. And this movie entered the world and the phrase "real women have curves" entered the conversation.

And that's insulting. It's an insulting thing to say.

Real women come in different sizes and shapes They are tall and they are short; they are slender and they are  fat; they are  large breasted and small breasted and lacking breasts entirely; they are wide hipped and narrow hipped. They have plump arms and skinny arms, bow legs or straight, long hair or short hair. They wear make up and they don't; they shave their legs and underarms and they don't; they wear high heels and boots and sneakers and flip flops and go barefoot; they wear skirts and pants and cover their hair and are nudists.

Women are human beings with all the range and glory that human beings come in.

Saying "real women have curves" is policing. It polices womens' bodies and tells women what is and isn't acceptable female-ness. And that sucks.

 There is, rightly, a backlash against the phrase now. Saying simply "real women have curves" without qualifying statements like "and real women don't have curves, too" is problematic. Deeply problematic.

But apparently people need reminding that the phrase came into existence for a reason. There is still huge pressure on women to be small, to be slender, to have eternally perky breasts that aren't too big (like a slutty slut) and pert firm but not too big butts and no hips and upper arms you can bounce a quarter off of. There is huge pressure on women to take up as little space as possible, to be child sized, to be pocket sized.

The phrase "realm women have curves" is problematic. Saying "this large woman is attractive and this skinny woman is gross" is wrong. Comparing women's bodies, pitting body type against body type, is divisive and harmful. But, and apparently this needs saying, simply posting a photo of a fat woman is not an attack on slender women. Saying that fat women are sexy or beautiful or desirable is not an attack on slender women, Acknowledging that fat women exist is not an attack on slender women.

Let me say that again.

Acknowledging that fat women exist, have a right to exist, have a right to be recognized as human beings, is not an attack on women who aren't fat.

So can women who identify as feminist please stop complaining about size-positive posts, images, quotes, etc? If it's something that honestly and legitimately tears a group down, by all means, criticize it. But if it's something that does nothing more than elevate someone different from you? Knock it the hell off. That's just petty bullshit, and it's harmful. It's saying that bodies other than your own do not deserve respect or to be treated as human.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Misogynist Memes and History

(Trigger Warning for Misogyny, assault, and torture in text and image) (Image heavy post)

From the 1500s through the 1800s (yes, that charming Regency period that Jane Austen wrote so entertainingly about, with pretty ladies in pretty dresses and gentlemen with fancy hats and gloves and carriages) a punishment for women who talked or "gossiped" too much was known as the Scold's Bridle. While men were sometimes fitted with the device, it was overwhelmingly used to subjugate women.

"Scold's Bridle Or Brank"
It was an iron framework that fit snugly around the heat with a metal plate or loop that went into the mouth and pressed down on the tongue. Sometimes it had one or more spikes or barbs so that if the person wearing it tried to talk their tongues would be injured or outright pierced. It was not possible to eat or drink while wearing one.

Photo of metal scold's bridle, with a bell on top.
Once fitted with the device, the person would be lead about in public, often by a chain or rope around the neck. Sometimes a bell was attached to the top to call even more attention to the victim.

Drawing of two women wearing scold's bridles with animal-heads.
Sometimes the device was in the shape of an animal head, to further dehumanize the person as well as call greater attention to whatever fault or sin they were considered guilty of.

As you can see, there is already a long, established tradition of silencing women with force. But surely we in the 21st century are beyond that! Well, not so much. There are a LOT of men who think women shouldn't talk, ever, and that using force to shut them up is a totally awesome idea.

Demotivational poster featuring image of rolls of duct tape with the caption "DUCT TAPE: Turning No, No, No! Into MMM-MMM-MMM,"

Text image stating : "Duct tape turning "No! No!" into "Mmph! Mmph!" since 1943."

Demotivational Poster with an image of a roll of duct tape and the caption "SILENCE Silence is golden. Duct tape is silver."

Photo of a wide eyed scared-looking woman with white tape over her mouth and the caption "TAPE Shutting bitches up since 1926."

Demotivational poster featuring a middle aged man in a military uniform standing next to a young woman in civilian clothing and the caption "MASKING TAPE AND SOME ROPE we all know he's thinking it."

Demotivational poster featuring a close up photograph of a woman's face. Her mouth is open and there is a red ball gag in it. The caption reads "BALL GAGS for 'quiet time'"

A demotivational poster shows a woman in her under clothes tied to a chair with rope, duct tape across her mouth. the text says "ROPE for those time when she says no"

A close up photo of a woman's face, her eyes closed, a large quantity of duct tape over her mouth. The caption says "SILENCE IS GOLDEN but Duct Tape is SILVER."

A demotivational poster featuring a woman's wide eyed face with what appears to be a metal plate bolted over her mouth. The caption reads "SILENCE a viable solution for domestic violence."

Silence: A Viable Solution For Domestic Violence. No No into Mmph Mmph. We've All Been Thinking It. These images explicitly state that women should not talk, that a silent woman is preferable to a speaking woman. They imply or outright state that if a woman with holds consent, then a man is within his right to ignore that and gag, assault, and rape her. These images state that all men want to bind, assault, and rape women and that it's perfectly understandable that they do. These images normalize rape culture (we've ALL been thinking it!) and advocate silencing, dismissing, and even assaulting women. These images are all about putting women in their place, treating them not as human beings but as sexual objects to serve men and nothing more.

Women make up 50.8 % of the population and only 16-17% of our Congress/Representatives. These women are censured when they use the word "vagina" while discussing reproductive health in a professional setting and not allowed to speak. They are silenced.  State by state, the USA is experiencing a grotesque attack on women, with more and more laws being passed restricting their ability to get paid, get medical attention, get prescription medication, get educations, and vote.

No War On Women?
There is incredible pressure on women to sit down, shut up, and take it. To get back in the kitchen and make some sandwiches and birth some babies. And men are told, and tell themselves and each other, that this is  normal and desirable. There is pressure on women to stay out of "male" spheres (pretty much everything that isn't nursing, low level teaching, or their own kitchens) and quick social censure to kick them out of those spheres if they have the temerity to enter them. So you get HILARIOUS memes like this, you get male politicians issuing gag orders for female politicians while discussing laws and medical issues that only affect people who have a uterus, you get rape and death threats sent to women bloggers who write about video games, and more.

There are people eager to tell you that we live in a post-feminist society, that feminists are just a bunch of ranting uggos who can't get laid. Meanwhile, we have a lot of men willing and able to take down women and punish them for no other reason than because they can and they think they deserve it. We live in a world where MANY people think that women should not have a voice. In anything.

Where is your voice?

What will you do about this?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Playing Pinterest Bingo!

Hello, harpies! It's time for another round of everyone's faaaaavorite game, Pinterest Bingo!!!

Today's image is this stunner:

Are you ready? LET'S GO!

  1. "Every guy thinks" BZZZZT. Guys are not a monolith. They do not all think the same thing. The idea that guys all think the same thing in this case is based on the assumption that all guys are straight, cisgendered, and thinking about girls. Hello patriarchy, how are you?

  2. "that every girls' dream is to find the perfect guy." BZZZZT. As above, girls are not a monolith.

  3. Also, calling women "girls" is infantilizing. There are many things to recommend girls! Small children can be really fun! However, adult women are not small children! They have significant differences in their mental and physical capacities. Using the same term for six-year-olds and thirty-six-year-olds erases those differences and builds a base of support for treating women as if they just don't know their own minds, they aren't logical, they can't make decisions on their own, they just need someone to take care of them... see also the recent push of anti-choice legislation surrounding mandatory ultrasound before abortion. It's predicated on the opinion that IF ONLY WOMEN KNEW WHAT THEY WERE DOING! LET'S GIVE THEM MORE INFORMATION! Which ignores the fact that um, yeah, people getting abortions? Know what they're doing. THAT'S WHY THEY'RE DOING IT.

  4. Women do not exist for men, or to find men, or to date/fuck/sleep with/marry men. Many women do these things! They are not the end-all, be-all of women's existence.

  5. "every girls dream is to eat without getting fat!" Hello fat hate my old friend!

    Leaving aside the repeated use of "girl", leaving aside the non-standard grammar, leaving aside the assumed monolith, we're left with "women dream of eating without getting fat." The thing of it is, I have known people who have actually yearned for this. The question becomes, why? Oh, perhaps it's because we live in a society that clearly privileges thin-ness, conflates it with health, and are awash in messages that fat kills. I'm not even talking about the subtle messages here, I'm talking about the blunt messages that fat kills.

    Thanks for your FIRST PAGE OF RESULTS, Google.

    So again, leaving aside the subtle messages about "increasing your health" and such, when you are told that fat kills, and you see fat people made fun of and stigmatized (see: every fat joke, ever), it's adaptive behavior to not want to be fat. It is! It lessens the stigma you face, and if you buy the message that fat will kill you, then clearly it'll keep you alive longer.

    Flaw number one, though is, you're going to die anyway. You are! Fact of life!

    Flaw number two is that a lot of the science on weight and fat are pretty fucking wrong! If you haven't already, I recommend reading Junkfood Science. There aren't super-recent updates, but there are a lot of takedowns of the common things we're told about fat and weight there. I also strongly recommend Fat Nutritionist. No, really, go read her blog NOW. It's amazing.

    So yeah, this is actually a common dream. However, it's not universal, and it's straight up fat hate.

    It also plays in to sexism - if you're obsessed with how you look, and making sure you don't eat too much and don't get fat, you literally do not have the brain power to deal with other things, like ohhhhhhh fighting the good fight against restrictive anti-choice legislation. (No, really - when you're hungry (and if you're on a diet so you don't get fat or become not-fat, you're hungry, since you're literally starving yourself) your capacity for thought is diminished.)

    And like we've detailed here before, images like this just propagate these memes. How many people see this and laugh because well DUH, of course it's true!

    It's really, really not, though.

    So yup, BINGO.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rape Culture, Gun Culture

Let's discuss the original image.
Guns Don't Kill People. Dad's With Good Looking Daughters Do.
It's a play on the NRA slogan that guns don't kill people, people kill people.  In this particular example, it's very specific people threatening to kill people: the fathers of sexually available, "good looking" daughters. This quote makes some assumptions about the way the world works.
  1. It's right and  normal for a father to control a young woman's sexual agency, both on her behalf (as a threatening figure/excuse against being pressured into sex she doesn't want) and against her will (as a threatening figure who punishes her for dating/having sex).
  2. It's right and normal for an adult male to threaten to murder someone his child cares about.
  3. It's right and normal to consider a pubescent or post pubescent woman as under threat.
  4. It's right and normal to consider women's sexuality as a threatening thing.
  5. Young women run the constant risk of sexual assault/rape and need adult men to control their behavior/take charge of their romantic/sexual lives on their behalf.
  6. Fatherless women can't depend on anyone to protect them from sexual assault, as that's a father's job.
  7. Women who aren't conventionally attractive ("good looking") don't deserve to be protected from sexual assault.
  8. Women who aren't conventionally attractive ("good looking") can't be sexually assaulted because who'd want them/they want it anyway/they should be grateful for whatever attention they get.
This kind of quote says a lot about the way our dominant society views women, fathers, gender roles, and sexuality. The misplaced apostrophe is the ignorant cherry on the misogynist sundae.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Worth of a Woman

Let's discuss this!

1) If she's amazing she won't be easy. The term "easy" when applied to a woman generally refers to her sexual history. "Easy" women are women that have had sex. It's easy to have sex with them because they enjoy sex, or they are sex workers, or they are easily intimidated and unable to say no. "Easy" women are "sluts" and are generally considered by kyriarchal society to have less worth than non-easy or chaste women. But ultimately, no woman is ever chaste enough unless she lives in a convent surrounded by armed guards and wearing an iron chastity belt which has no key. The truth is that many amazing women have sex. Many amazing women have sex with one person, others have sex with many people. Amazing women have sex all the time. Amazing women also abstain from sex, either of their own volition or not. One's sexual experience has very little to do with how amazing one is, unless one is specifically talking about amazingness while having sex, where one might expect that someone experienced at having sex will have more amazing sex just as one who's been playing piano for a long time is more amazing at it than someone who started recently.

2) If she's easy, she won't be amazing. Again, a woman who has had sex, who is "easy," is described as having less value than a woman who is not "easy," one who has not had sex. THIS IS WHY MEN WHO RAPE WOMEN DO NOT GO TO JAIL, because women who have had sex are assigned less value than virgins. It's one of the classic "but I didn't really rape her" excuses. It couldn't have been rape, she's had sex before! It couldn't have been rape, she's had sex with ME before! A woman who has had sex has less value, less worth, then a woman who has not had sex! THIS IS BULLSHIT.

3) If she's worth it, you won't give up. I know, I know. I've seen those romantic comedies, too. The one where a dude engages in creepy stalker behavior and the woman sees through the error of her ways in rejecting him and they have a happy ever after. Look. When a woman says no, whether that's to dating or to having sex, she means no. Drop it. Pursuing a woman against her will is controlling, manipulative, and fucked up. Yes, despite every romantic movie you've ever seen that denies women agency and flat out says that stalking is the way to a woman's heart. If she's worth your respect, don't creep her out by forcing yourself into her life.

4) If you give up, you're not worthy. And this is the crux of the matter, isn't it? Pursuing a woman, for romance or for sex, ultimately isn't about what she wants. It's about the man proving that he's worth it, that he deserves her, that he's man enough. What the woman wants EXPLICITLY doesn't matter. The man will just wear her down over time, prove his worth, and ride off into the sunset.

This is rape culture in action. This stressing that a woman's worth is tied directly to her sexuality and experience is a way of demeaning and dismissing any woman that isn't "pure" enough, whether that's purity in action, thought, dress, behavior, or what. It's a way of controlling women, of controlling who they meet and what they wear and how they act and where they go (and when!) and who they have sex with and how often. Women who are sexually active are as worth while, as valuable, as women who are not sexually active. Women who have sex do not suddenly stop being human beings.

This is rape culture in action. This cavalier disregard for what a woman wants in preference to what the man wants is rape culture; moreover, the stress women are under to appear pure/chaste/inexperienced and thus to routinely say no when they might really want to say yes and then "allow" the man to "convince" them essentially paves the way for rape. This insistence that women who say yes are slutty sluts while women who say no are really saying maybe is harmful.

This is rape culture in action. At the root of it, this isn't about how amazing women are and how they're worth pursuing. This is about controlling women's behavior and determining their value, and telling men that they are only real women if they pursue an uninterested women and force them into a relationship. A man who "gives up," a man who respects a no, is "not worthy." Not worthy? A man who treats a woman with respect and consideration is "not worthy"? Not worthy of what, exactly?

This is rape culture and it's harmful. It's why rape convictions are so low. It's why serial rapists aren't punished, instead being turned loose so they can continue raping. It's why one million women are raped every year, some of them by guys who are unaware that they've raped a woman because "no" means "maybe, keep trying."

Women are not defined by their sexual history. All women have worth. All women have value. Women say no to sex, and to relationships, because they don't want to have that sex or be in those relationships. Pursuing them despite their objections is cruel.

Recent CDC statistics concerning rape

According to the CDC, more than 1 million women are raped in a year and over 6 million women and men are victims of stalking in a year. These findings emphasize that sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence are important and widespread public health problems in the United States.