Monday, August 27, 2007

in defense of male-bashing.

hackles up! got 'em up? good.

of course i kid - i'm not actually here to defend male-bashing in the strawfeminist boogeyman sense. you know, the one where all the hairy-legged lesbian separatists talk about how men are Teh Enemy and won't it be great when we get the means of artificial production so their entire sex will just die off? i'm not here to defend bashing men simply for being men. i think the percentage of feminists who have ever actually engaged in such sweeping denunciations have numbered in the dozens, but you wouldn't know it from the media backlash - you'd think this was our bread and butter. well, that and killin' babies. so, just to be clear, that's not what i'm talking about.

my last post raised some questions and comments about the nature of generalization, on which i've been chewing on ever since in the comment thread, emails, and subsequent conversations. what was needling me, i realized, was this statement from toast in comments:

It's not an indictment of generalization per se, it's an indictment of unfair and/or unsupportable generalization. [emphasis his]


so i got to thinking. what if we are generalizing based on experience when it comes to (admittedly inflammatory) statements like "men are pigs"? metaphorical nature aside, is there anything unsupportable about the idea that, over the millennia of human history, men have collectively treated women like crap? that we have a few solid centuries of overwhelming evidence to support such a claim, and that sadly, men not behaving like pigs in some way or another has usually been the exception and not the rule?

when you step back and look at the big picture, it's not pretty:

- the leading cause of death for pregnant women is murder.

- one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

- 73% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knew — 38% were a friend or acquaintance of the victim, 28% were an intimate and 7% were another relative.

- one in four girls is sexually abused before the age of 18.

- it took until 1900 for every state in america to repeal coverture - the legal precedent that made a wife property of a husband.

this is just a small sampling of the situation in which women have historically found themselves when it comes to relating to, and with, men. i have to ask if, in this light, it's any wonder that we regard the entire gender with something of a jaundiced eye. if it's not entirely fair - or, dare i even say, reasonable - for us to approach interactions with the male gender with no small amount of wariness or suspicion. history kinda bears us out here.

a question, in all honesty: why should i give every man i meet the benefit of the doubt? how does that serve me, in a practical sense? as i pointed out in an email conversation about this, "in my general experience, it's hard not to generalize in practice about men - i have to hold myself a certain way when i walk down the street because i have no fucking idea which ones are nice guys and which ones are going to leer and hiss at me. and, beyond that, that the world doesn't divide neatly into those two categories, either." so, while i don't advocate retreating to a hermit's life in the woods based on the odds that men are going to mistreat you, or actively mistreating any man you meet in a bizarro pre-emptive strike, i also see how a lot of women's generalized distrust and distaste about men is not based on ephemeral ideas, but on cold, hard reality.

now, in my conversations with BoyCat about this issue, he raised a very good point that may ultimately (hopefully) be a way out of this deep, dark pit of anger and acrimony. it is essentially this: once we take all this frustration about gender, race, and sexuality-based discrimination and degradation and reframe it within a class-based critique, we could actually be able to move forward. because (sociology 101 alert!!) they are all intertwined. and in this culture of go-go capitalism and consumer worship, it's not men or white people or straight people who rule with impunity: money is king. and while (as i kept agitatedly pointing out during our discussion) this doesn't mean that sexuality, race, or gender-based abuse and hate aren't real or damaging, BoyCat makes the point that the only way to move from injured howling to some type of change is by making society a more just, equitable, enjoyable place for everyone to live. you do that not only by addressing racism, sexism, and homophobia, but by then identifying how these particular systems of oppression function in the service of a broader context, which is the well-oiled functioning of the capitalist machine. i thought that was a really trenchant point. and, ok, i hoped that by ending on it, you all wouldn't end up flagellating me too badly.

again, i kid. i love being flagellated. which reminds me - up next is a post about how we are, in fact, our worst enemy. until then, feel free to pontificate/castigate/interrogate in comments. (hey, this means you - you, right there. of course toast and i could just tussle about this for a few more days, but i want to hear all you lovely readers and your opinions. this is not to say that we'll end up agreeing with each other either, but that's half the fun, right?)

34 comments:

fridge said...

and that sadly, men not behaving like pigs in some way or another has usually been the exception and not the rule?

Is it really more common for you to experience men behaving like pigs than not? Really? More men you encounter are pigs than aren't? Because most guys I know are good to their wives and girlfriends, daughters and mothers, and treat them all with respect.

And seriously. What does 1900 have to do with 2007? In 2007, more people have broadband internet service than had electricity in 1900. It's forever ago. What bearing does that have today?

Lastly, I'll risk sounding like a pedantic asshole and say, sure, you can be strident. But stridency has hit the point of diminishing returns. At this point, it only fuels the knuckleheads who are looking for reasons to dismiss what feminists are trying to say.

kate.d. said...

i think (and i know i keep coming back to this idea, but i find it crucial) that there's a spectrum of male, shall we say, piggish behavior. usually it's not so easy as identifying one guy as "pig" and one as "non-pig." and this is not to wantonly impugn the guys that you (and i) know, but there can often be more to the story than we know or see - when 40% of rape victims are attacked by a "friend or acquaintance," there's either something nasty lurking under the surface of male/female interaction or a lot of women have really bad judgment. i'm inclined to believe the former.

so while it would be impossible for me to try to calibrate the level of piggishness over all my interactions with men, i will say that i have personally experienced and seen women i know experience enough - assault, stalking, verbal abuse, harassment, intimidation, condescension, degradation, you name it - that i feel justified in being somewhat wary of men as a class of people.

as far as 1900 goes, it may seem like forever ago, but it's not. my grandfather was alive in 1900. we're only two generations removed - at most - from that kind of mindset. women got the vote 20 years after that, and then had to wait another 40+ years just to legally be able to control when they got pregnant.

the force of history behind those old ideals - women as property and therefore not eligible to control her own life - versus the relative infancy of the notion that women are actually fully human makes for quite a confused species.

and finally, to your knucklehead point, i just refuse to measure out my tone based on what dismissers of feminism will do with i. i refuse to measure out anything i do in reaction to them.

fridge said...

and this is not to wantonly impugn the guys that you (and i) know,

Well, isn't that what you're doing when you say stuff like "men NOT acting like pigs is the exception rather than the rule"? Because that's how it seems to guys like me and Toast.

that i feel justified in being somewhat wary of men as a class of people.

You certainly are. I guess I'm hoping we can agree that it's not the majority of men that are making you feel that way.

"the force of history behind those old ideals - women as property and therefore not eligible to control her own life - versus the relative infancy of the notion that women are actually fully human makes for quite a confused species."

I have to admit that I had never heard of coverture. The "force of history" isn't something palpable to me. But, I can't deny that there are many guys who treat women as if they owned them, Nor can I deny the likely fact that this descends from the historical fact that at one time that's how it was.

What I don't see is why this truth makes being strident and inflammatory today a good thing.

and finally, to your knucklehead point, i just refuse to measure out my tone based on what dismissers of feminism will do with i. i refuse to measure out anything i do in reaction to them.

Fair enough.

fridge said...

Because that's how it seems to guys like me and Toast.

I just realized I dragged Toast into something I said. Feel free to bail, dude, and leave me fending for myself!

kate.d. said...

fridge, i don't want you to necessarily feel like you're "fending" - even though i have some strong ideas about this, i'm always still thinking it through - and even if we end up disagreeing, i appreciate the input.

Well, isn't that what you're doing when you say stuff like "men NOT acting like pigs is the exception rather than the rule"?

i mean that in the sense that historically, when you average it out, you've probably got the "pig" side of scale pretty weighed down. given my point of the relative infancy of more progressive ideas about women, i think it's going to be a long time before we see something approaching a shift there. because i have personally seen a staggering number of "good guys" display some really questionable behavior and attitudes.

it's not the majority of men that are making you feel that way.

here's the thing, though - that's just conjecture, right? i don't know the majority of men in the world or what they're *really* like (even if such a thing were static). but, to my point above, what i have seen is enough to convince me that sexism is still in the proverbial water, and that results in an undercurrent of misogyny that can (and does) pop up in the strangest places amongst the most seemingly unlikely people.

my point, in sum: i believe the majority of men have a strong capacity for misogynistic behavior, based on the cultural and societal incubator that objectifies women and glorifies domination, and that a good number of them will act on that capacity (consciously or unconsciously) at some point in their lives.

Heather said...

On one hand is a general statement, that men in general are oppressive towards women, and on the other hand is a personal statement, as in I'm not oppressive. That's the problem; the general statement isn't personal. While there are many "nice guys" out there, that doesn't mean that there are more "nice guys" overall. And there's a range of behaviors here. Just because a guy doesn't beat up his girlfriend doesn't mean he's not supporting a system of male-centric behavior. My husband, who is a wonderful and supportive person, tends to be dismissive towards women's arguments in ways he isn't towards men. It's something I've noticed quite often. And while maybe it's not of the grandest import in my house (I argue it out and point out what an ass he is being) what if that was in the workplace? That happens all the time. And maybe these are the "nice guys" but they're still contributing towards keeping women in an inferior position.

And yes, more guys I know are of varying degrees from dismissive to full-out pigs than otherwise. I don't know a lot of terrible people; no one I know is abusive or anything like that. Perhaps you don't notice the behavior because society is more accepting of attitudes and conversations that denigrate women's intelligence.

Toast said...

I just realized I dragged Toast into something I said. Feel free to bail, dude, and leave me fending for myself!

Quite alright. I was actually glad to see you had this covered, as I had important fantasy football research to do for our draft earlier this evening.

Because most guys I know are good to their wives and girlfriends, daughters and mothers, and treat them all with respect.

Word. Don't forget co-workers. Hell, I've got as many female bosses and colleagues at work as males, and we get along swimmingly. Yes, I've personally encountered a few guys who are true misogynist assholes, but they're few and far between.

as far as 1900 goes, it may seem like forever ago, but it's not.

Actually, in many ways, it is. Viewed in terms of technology and information processing, the "doubling" effect places circa 1900's society a lot closer to 1600's society than it does to our own. Times are changing, and the rate of that change is faster than ever.

And to reiterate what I emailed you about yesterday, history and global context are fine as far as they go, but they can also obscure the Here and Now.

that's just conjecture, right? i don't know the majority of men in the world or what they're *really* like

And your tacit assumption that, behind closed doors, or even in the privacy of their own minds, men are secretly pigs? That's not conjecture?

i believe the majority of men have a strong capacity for misogynistic behavior, based on the cultural and societal incubator that objectifies women and glorifies domination, and that a good number of them will act on that capacity (consciously or unconsciously) at some point in their lives.

So most men have a "capacity" for misogynistic behavior, and you "believe" that a good number (?) of them will act on it. (Abeit some may act "unconsciously"?) There's just too much in there to try to unravel, and that's without even touching the whole "objectification" bit, which I think is feminism's single most questionable contribution to modern social discourse.

Bottom line, I'm not convinced in the slightest that you've proven that anti-male bigotry is justified, useful, or fair. I'm always ready to oppose and condemn anyone who seeks to deny women equal rights or to do them real, tangible harm. But this appeal to invisible forces of oppression, "objectification", unfair standards of beauty, and unconscious forms of sexism strikes me as weak tea.

kate.d. said...

But this appeal to invisible forces of oppression, "objectification", unfair standards of beauty, and unconscious forms of sexism strikes me as weak tea.

spoken like a true dude who's never been subjected to objectification, unfair standards, or unconscious forms of sexism! toast, seriously, this gets a capital letter Oh Mah God from me. i feel like i can't even address your other points, i'm so stunned. if you honestly think that the issue and impact of society's objectification of women is "questionable," its highly possible we're not even speaking the same language here.

kate.d. said...

*pinches self* yup, still shocked.

you "believe" that a good number (?) of them will act on it.

i "believe" this because i've seen a good number of them (in the context of actual men i know, versus the men in the world who i don't) act on it, to varying degrees. i extrapolate from that experience.

I'm always ready to oppose and condemn anyone who seeks to deny women equal rights or to do them real, tangible harm.

equal rights and "tangible" harm? are we drawing lines in the sand here? i ask this sincerely. because what i'm hearing from this statement is, "as long as women have got their abortion access and their Title IX and their equal pay (whoops, right, we're still working on that one), and they're not getting raped or manhandled, then we're cool."

i just, honestly, am at a loss here. i don't....um.....

.............

um.

Toast said...

Hackles up, kate?

the issue and impact of society's objectification of women is "questionable,"

Of questionable usefulness, yes. I mean, some days I'm unclear on what that term even means, and on the days where I think I am, it's like "OK, but so what? Men find women's bodies pleasing to look at so they're used to sell things. So what?" (And I know that's just one example; please provide more, and then tell me, so what?) For the 20 years or so since I first heard the term, every time "objectification" comes up I get this sense of "Here we go down the rabbit hole again."

And the "unfair standards of beauty" canard rankles me too. You don't think when I get a Sandals brochure in the mail that the male models at the bar and in the pool are ridiculous looking, sporting 1% body fat and perfectly sculpted bodies that one man in a thousand actually possess? That's a little funny, a little annoying, but it's not oppression. Unfair stereotypes? Why is every male sitcom character portrayed as a blithering imbecile while their female counterparts are uniformly represented as fonts of maturity and wisdom? Again, annoying, but I don't lose sleep over it.

"as long as women have got their abortion access and their Title IX and their equal pay (whoops, right, we're still working on that one), and they're not getting raped or manhandled, then we're cool."

And they're being treated with the same level of civility and respect that your average man enjoys. Yes, I'd say that's about right.

That doesn't mean you have a right never to be offended. It doesn't mean no one can ever make generalizations about your sex. (Hell, if we didn't have generalizations about sex, 4/5ths of comedians would be out of a job tomorrow.) It doesn't mean guys aren't going to continue to look at women they pass on the street and make snap judgements based on how physically attractive they are without giving a good goddamn what's going on inside their heads. Hell, you think the people -- men and women -- who walk by me in the corridors at my office don't immediately form judgements about me based on my appearance alone? Of course they do. So. What?

Is it a stereotypically "male" attitude that I get exasperated with talk of atmosphere, unconscious bias, and conjecture about Secret Piggishness? That I want to focus on tangible, provable harm which is amenable to practical solutions*? Why yes, I suppose it is. But that's definitely how I feel about it.

(*We can start with the equal pay problem. Give me a petition to sign or a congressperson to contact.)

hetherjw said...

Toast: "But this appeal to invisible forces of oppression, "objectification", unfair standards of beauty, and unconscious forms of sexism strikes me as weak tea."

Kate, I won't speak for Toast, but to his point this statement makes perfect sense. Men never see or feel the same intrinsic oppression that you are speaking to. The breakdown here is that, because we are men, none of this stuff ever makes it to our radar.

You and Toast (and Fridge) aren't speaking the same language. (Hell the only reason I feel like I can come in here and comment on this disconnect is my 18 months of daily Twisty reading. Last year I would have thrown my hat in with Toast... its only because I have spent so much time reading and trying to understand Twisty that I can even see where "angry man-bashing feminists" are coming from.)

Its too pre-coffee for me to continue with my comment.

fridge said...

i believe the majority of men have a strong capacity for misogynistic behavior, based on the cultural and societal incubator that objectifies women and glorifies domination, and that a good number of them will act on that capacity (consciously or unconsciously) at some point in their lives.

I don't dispute at all that there are a large number of people that fit this description. I absolutely dispute that it's a majority.

As for the cultural and societal forces, I don't deny that those forces remain. But the arrow indicating the trend is absolutely pointing in the direction of equality. It's at the point where as Toast states, men are being objectified, too, at a main stream level. I mean, when the newsstand has as many magazines with dudes Abs as girls in bikinis, the forces of objectification are clearly no longer one sided. When Dr. McDreamy or McSteamy or 'The Men of Wisteria Lane' is a TVGuide cover, objectification of men has hit the mainstream.

This is not at all to say that it's on equal terms. But that's undeniably the trend.

here's the thing, though - that's just conjecture, right? i don't know the majority of men in the world or what they're *really* like (even if such a thing were static).
I'm sorry if this sounds glib, but that seems to me to be like saying 'Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you.' You don't know what they're really like, so you presume misogyny? That's almost a straw man argument. I can't argue against a secret bogey man within people. I'd posit that people should be measured by what they say and do. And as such, I'd also say that most men are not pigs.

Toast said...

When Dr. McDreamy or McSteamy or 'The Men of Wisteria Lane' is a TVGuide cover, objectification of men has hit the mainstream.

And yet, somehow, fat schlubs like us appear to be weathering the storm with no adverse effects.

Toast said...

Case Study: Two women just walked past my house as I was out front hanging up the bird feeders after re-filling them. I looked at the younger one and thought "Damn, those are some fine looking legs." And I wasn't the least bit curious who she was, where she was going. Didn't stop to consider her internal sense of conscious agency at all. Does that make me a "pig"?

kate.d. said...

i feel like i'm in a silent movie, speaking really earnestly and gesticulating with abandon, and yet not making a sound. and it's really kinda depressing me. so a quick reaction, while i ponder whether i think that expending all this mental energy is getting anyone anywhere in the end.

Case Study? yeah, that was a piggish thought. but once again, broken record style, there's a spectrum of behavior. so i refuse to sit here and christen you "pig" or "non-pig" based on one thought. however, i don't hesistate to say that it was objectification.

as to all this strange comparative exampling - Desparate Housewives and Men's Health covers, etc - i have to refer once again to the reviled twisty, who apparently speaking such heinously insulting truths as this:

Q: Men experience [oppression/rape/porn/motherhood/PMS], too! What about them?

A: ...Male experiences are not commensurate with women’s experiences because women are an oppressed class.


i have something to say about how women achieving "equal rights" and avoiding "tangible harm" is not segregable from their objectification, but that will have to wait.

Toast said...

yeah, that was a piggish thought. but once again, broken record style, there's a spectrum of behavior. so i refuse to sit here and christen you "pig" or "non-pig" based on one thought. however, i don't hesistate to say that it was objectification.

And while I agree that it's "objectification" I think it's ridiculous to call it sexist or piggish. It's a perfectly natural and harmless, if gonadally-driven, animal reaction, and the woman I thought it about is none the worse for my thinking it.

A: ...Male experiences are not commensurate with women’s experiences because women are an oppressed class.

So, of course, we should completely exclude male experiences for purposes of comparison (or anything else) and set the parameters of this discussion entirely in terms that women define which are accepted as axiomatic and beyond criticism or question. Or, as Twisty more pithily puts it, "Feminism doesn't care what men think".

I'm out. That's all the divide-bridging I can attempt for one week.

Toast said...

OK, I lied. One more thing, because now I'm stomping around my house steaming mad and I'm going to get it off my chest.

This: Male experiences are not commensurate with women’s experiences because women are an oppressed class.

Is exactly the same garbage I ran into when I tried to take Amanda to task for her computer programmer smear.

"Oh, well it's OK to make unfair generalizations about (male) computer programmers because they're not oppressed."

NO. No no no no no no no no NO.

Fuck that noise.

I refuse to enter into any dialog that starts from the premise that the world can be neatly divided into "oppressed" and "not oppressed" classes. And I sure as hell am not going to let anyone negate my experiences and my opinions by declaring me "not oppressed".

If feminists (or "Feminism") really don't care what men think and are content with their movement being an insular, intellectual circle-jerk (circle-rub?) then by all means, knock yourselves out. Otherwise, you might want to listen to the experiences of those men who are attempting to reach out and understand and communicate instead of just saying "Well, sorry, that's just not the same" and dismissing them.

kate.d. said...

steaming mad? wow, that makes two of us. i could write a thesis about all the ways i disagree with you right now, but as that's not what my employer pays me for, i'm just going to pose this question. and i am genuinely interested in hearing your answer.

in an earlier email, i said, "i think objectification is symbiotically related to women being denied rights and inflicted with 'tangible harm', and you said "i don't agree." so if objectification is not at the root of the way society treats women, what is? what is the the foundational idea that results in things like rape and domestic abuse and the south dakota abortion ban?

Toast said...

so if objectification is not at the root of the way society treats women, what is?

The root of it? Same thing that's at the root of all systematic mistreatment of one class by another (and, for that matter, one individual by another): Lack of empathy. I believe that the development of this faculty is the single greatest predictor of whether a given person will grow up to be an "oppressor" (or an "asshole") or not.

and you said "i don't agree."

That's not all I said. I said:

-----
"I don't agree. I think it's perfectly possible and perfectly normal for a well-adjusted male to both be able to look at a woman from a standpoint of pure sexual interest/aesthetic appreciation in one context (e.g. while looking at a billboard) and to act towards them in a respectful, civilized manner in another context (e.g. in a business meeting). Also, I think it's possible for a woman to do the same to a man in reverse.

"People are "objectified" all the time. You can't expect everyone you encounter to stop and pause to consider your "agency". At any given moment someone might be filing me as "overweight, unkempt guy" or "jerk blocking my way on the escalator" without considering my personhood. Big deal. If I'm in closer contact with them and they need to interact with me as a fully-realized person, I trust they'll adjust."
-----

The key is being able to gradually turn up the gain on one's empathy towards a specific individual as the situation merits it. The greater the consequences of my actions towards you, the more I need to take your "agency" into account. Unfortunately, to amp up that gain, the ability to empathize needs to be there in the first place.

I believe it's something one develops at a very tender age. It happens largely prior to exposure to all the "objectifying" forces in the media. For boys, learning respect for and empathy towards women is a special case of learning respect for and empathy towards others generally, and again, it's something you only have a chance to learn at a deep level once, usually from watching the behavior of the adults immediately around you.

I watched the way my father treated my mother. I watched the way the women in my family were (with one notable exception) accorded respect, how they behaved as full and equal partners with the men. Trust me: No amount of glossy magazine pics of hot babes that I was subsequently exposed to had a snowball's chance in hell of altering that fundamental stance towards the equality of the sexes or diminishing my respect for and empathy towards women.

Bottom line? Objectification of other human beings is a natural simplification for dealing with other people in a very complex world. Sexual objectification of women in the media is an epiphenomenon of that, the effects of which I think are exaggerated. If a man is oppressing or mistreating women, you have to go a lot further back than his exposure to the broader, crasser culture to find out why.

kate.d. said...

i have a bit of a fundamental problem with using the word "empathy" here, versus sympathy. men can empathize with women on certain things, like hating alex rodriguez (sorry, couldn't resist) or the grief of losing a parent. but men can never empathize with the experience of walking through a society in which women are hypersexualized. where everyday, the culture intimates to you that the way you look is the most important thing about you, is ultimately *who you are*. you can never empathize with the way i intrinsically feel while standing in a crowded subway car, or walking down a dark deserted street at night. so i'm not sure, in that sense, an overall "empathy" with women and their experience is possible.

also, i'm a little perplexed by your insistence that culture is not going to affect people's behavior. am i hearing you say that every man's fate is sealed when it comes to how he treats women based on what he saw at home (i wonder what that says about boys raised in the absense of any father figures) when he was four or five?

your last comment reminded me, for some reason, of your post about the alleged Prius "backlash." you wrote,

"Shocking, no? American consumers purchasing something in order to make a statement about themselves? Someone call Madison Avenue. I think there's the germ of a strategy in this idea."

so advertising is powerful enough to influence what people purchase, but not what they think? people can take in 3,000 ads a day - in many of which a sexualized woman (or some of her disembodied parts) will be used to shill a product - and not have that repetition of images and their implication lodge in their cortex somewhere, affecting to some degree how they see the world?

i guess these are technically rhetorical questions from me, because i think the answers are no and no. we are *all* cooked in this soup. to think that we have some sort of superhuman compartmentalization capacity just because we were raised in a household that was the paragon of feminist equality (which, of course, is not close to the case for the vast majority of people) is practically delusional.

so, obivously, we disagree. and for my sanity today, i have to cut myself off from this discussion for today. i am sure i'll be circling back around to it, but i think i'm going to give myself an ulcer if i don't quit for now.

Toast said...

Yes, I think it is substantially easier to modify a person's thinking about what car/phone/television/soda to buy than it is to sway their fundamental psychological makeup. I don't think that makes me "delusional" either.

fridge said...

...Male experiences are not commensurate with women’s experiences because women are an oppressed class.

I have a question. Clearly things on a whole have gotten better for women over the past 100 years or so. What level of improvement needs to be reached for women to no longer consider themselves 'oppressed'?

hetherjw said...

Re: Case Study.

Toast, I don't think what you did makes you a "pig." You didn't really do anything. However, on this walk, where you looked at that woman's legs and were complete innocent, she probably heard 18 variations of "Nice legs wanna fuck." And people beeping at her from cars.

That never, NEVER, happens to men. When was the last time you went for a bike ride and thought about the route to take that would keep you away from men, but not too alone so you couldn't be ambushed? I bet never. Women think about the world and their day-to-day activities differently because they have to. Part of the fallout from that wholesale difference is male-bashing and it does need to be cut more slack that other forms of bigotry.

To Fridge's point: Women have seen their lives improved over the last 100 years. But I don't think they have to no longer consider themselves "oppressed" until the amount of male on female violence matches the amount of female on male violence. So when women get several orders of magnitude more violent... or when rape and domestic abuse become rarities.

Toast said...

You didn't really do anything.

Well, no, although I was starting to get the impression that Thought Crimes were in play in this discussion.

However, on this walk, where you looked at that woman's legs and were complete innocent, she probably heard 18 variations of "Nice legs wanna fuck." And people beeping at her from cars.

Uh... no. I mean, seriously, not for nothing do I call my peaceful little 'burg in the Connecticut hills "the Shire".

When was the last time you went for a bike ride and thought about the route to take that would keep you away from men, but not too alone so you couldn't be ambushed?

It's not often that I worry about such things (though it's not "never" either). I worry a little bit about certain very isolated stretches of our "rails-to-trails" path, and I'm certainly wary of large groups of unfamiliar men (particularly young ones) when I'm out on the town. But no, it's not a constant background noise in my thoughts by any stretch. (Although if my friend Muffin were here he'd offer a startlingly different take.)

Part of the fallout from that wholesale difference is male-bashing and it does need to be cut more slack that other forms of bigotry.

I beg to differ on that. Bashing is bashing, prejudice is prejudice. It's one thing for a woman to say that she feels the need to be wary of men. It's another entirely to start smearing all men as a class.

Toast said...

So when women get several orders of magnitude more violent... or when rape and domestic abuse become rarities.

That's never going to happen because men are more violent generally than women. A lot more.

The aforementioned muffin brought some eye-opening stats to the table last time he was here. Among them was the fact that a man was four times as likely to be the victim of violence by another man than a woman was. Worth pondering.

hetherjw said...

I promise that that woman from this morning was harassed, in one way or another, this morning, in your neighborhood. My mom walks a couple of times a week around my neighborhood (which is at least a safe and affluent and shire-like as yours) and gets beeped at every time. A conservatively dressed older woman who get honked at every time she goes for a walk in a safe town with a huge police presence.

I won't try to refute with statistics, but I can say that I have never been cat-called or beeped at or verbally harassed. I also know that I think about my personal safety differently than my girlfriend (or almost any woman in may age group). I've never had to develop the sense of danger she has. Best I can tell, living in the world is vastly different for women than it is for men and the "down side" to being a guy is that feminists use tags like "Men Hate You." The downside to being a woman seems to be a constant backdrop of fear and $.89 on the dollar in the working world.

Toast said...

I promise that that woman from this morning was harassed, in one way or another, this morning, in your neighborhood. My mom walks a couple of times a week around my neighborhood (which is at least a safe and affluent and shire-like as yours) and gets beeped at every time. A conservatively dressed older woman who get honked at every time she goes for a walk in a safe town with a huge police presence.

And I promise you're wrong. The next time I hear a car horn in our neighborhood will be the first. And no, people do not make cat-calls at women on the street where I live. Good lord, half my neighbors are over 70 and the rest are all families. I don't know where you live, and I'm certainly not going to claim any knowledge about how people behave there. But, on the flipside, with regard to the town I live in, you have no idea what you're talking about. You're merely generalizing from your own experience.

hetherjw said...

I am generalizing based on my own experience, granted. I guess nice suburbs in CT are filled with civilized people who don't experience any of the sexism that we have up here in the nice suburbs of MA. That or I would have said the exact same thing you are saying... until 2 weeks ago when I asked my mom directly. I was not surprised (really) when my girlfriend said she was honked at while running in the city where we live. I was shocked when my mom said the same thing happens to her in my home town. I was most shocked because I lived there for 20 years and never once saw/heard it. Quick survey of my friends from high school: all the women were harassed, none of the guys ever heard anything.

Toast said...

I didn't say sexism doesn't exist at all in the town I live in and that women are never harassed. I said that your characterization:

"on this walk, where you looked at that woman's legs and were complete innocent, she probably heard 18 variations of 'Nice legs wanna fuck.'"

Is preposterous.

Yes, I'm sure there's sexism and harassment everywhere you go. But I don't buy for a moment that it's a uniform, reeking swamp out there, with leering men peeking out of every window and lurking behind every bush.

Toast said...

BTW, out of curiousity, I just asked my wife if she'd ever been harassed in any way while walking or out and about in our town. Nada.

Heather said...

You know, I'm rather average looking, not tall, not busty, not curvy, not particularly pretty. And I get harassed ALL THE TIME when I go out running. I wear pants and a t-shirt, nothing special or revealing, and I get honked at, men leaning out of their car windows making snarky comments, passers-by making comments. I've even had some guy grab my arm and try to get me to stop, and I'm running in daylight in "good" neighborhoods. This happens in the city, and it happened when I lived in affluent and safe white-mcwhiteyburg. That many men AREN'T looking at me and thinking "Wow, she's pretty, I'd like to express my appreciation." I would bet large wads of money that they're thinking "Let's make her uncomfortable." My husband goes running in the same neighborhoods and has ONCE had someone make any kind of comment to him, rude or otherwise. Now tell me that I get treated with the same respect as a man.

kate.d. said...

we have, unsurprisingly, gotten off on a few tangents here. i'm going to post a few cumulative thoughts, and then peace out from this thread - i'm sure i'll have some more posts based on some of these questions/ideas in the near future, and you're all more than welcome to continue the discussion here if you want. regardless of the level of disagreement, i asked for input and i do appreciate it.

this whole exchange was really bothering me yesterday - i was upset and angry and disappointed, and i had to step away from the table before i stared breaking the good china. why was that? i think, now that i've chewed on it, it was the overpowering sense of futility it gave me - that my attempts at expanding feminist dialogue were getting dismissed and negated by people i consider allies. i'm still not sure what to make of that, but for now, we've just got our differing opinions. hell, it's a free country, and everyone is entitled to one.

toast, i still flat out disagree with you on a) the validity of women being wary of men in general based on our collective historical experience with them and b) the tanget we got onto about media and cultural influence. what i am going to think a lot about is your good point about how the atmosphere/influences of a child's upbringing are incredibly formative when it comes to perspectives on gender, race, etc. - i realize that in my mind, i was actually considering the family part of the idea of "cultural influence" as a whole. while i was focusing on mass media in my points, i think that there's actually interesting hay to be made about how all these institutions that make up a "culture" - family, schooling, media, the workplace, etc - work together on a high-level to perpetuate that culture. it's interesting stuff.

there are also other things i want to think about as far as why i feel like most media representations of women are so corrosive - it has to do with things like semiotics and ways of seeing (berger's seminal notion: "men look at women. women watch themselves being looked at."; the guerilla girls famous query: "do women have to be naked to get into the Met?"), and my questions about how this observed "lack of empathy" (or sympathy, in some cases) for women in society gets circulated and perpetuated. so, more thoughts from me on that later.

finally - fridge, you ask about what level of improvement it would take for women not to be oppressed anymore. and while that's the stuff of a thesis, not a blog comment, i will say that i honestly believe that nothing short of revolution would accomplish that. i'm not optimistic about it's chances, but a radical overhaul of society and its institutions, at this point, would be necessary to tear down the cycles and systems of domination - which give rise to fear, anxiety, insecurity, and hatred - that govern all of our lives.

on that cheery note, i need some coffee. thanks, everyone, for talking with me.

m Andrea said...

Boycat wants you to stop blaming men. While you're busy not-blaming men, some men will make life unjust for ALL women. Most other men will go along with the sexism, and benefit from it.

What difference does it make, really, how many "nice" guys there are, if life is unfair for ALL women?

I'm not kidding. What difference does it make -- to all women? Saying "all men aren't like that" is just a dishonest way of disguising the problem. Let's not notice that ALL women are harmed, let's look at that shiney nice guy over there.

There is no logical reason to reframe the problem, unless the real purpose is to shut us up while they go on their merry sexist way. I say turn up the stridency full blast!

Toast said...

i will say that i honestly believe that nothing short of revolution would accomplish that.

Um... John Lennon called. He left a message.