People don’t think about Feminism much, because they’ve already thought about it. Minds are made up and commentators of all classes just fight for their side. The idea of not reacting is just an impossibility, for or against anything gender related. Among all other civil rights movements it’s unique that people who are anti-feminist don’t see themselves as on the wrong side of history. Racists and homophobes know they’re out of step with current culture that’s why they love the word Traditional. For some reason though feminism has always been an active present battle. And on 1 level, in the political realm, I think it always need to be. We will always need a feminist forefront defending reproductive rights because the religious traditionalists will never stop trying to control women’s bodies. In the words of Sarah Silverman “You want big government out of your backyard? Try keeping it out of my pussy.” And again if you compare feminism and other civil rights movements it’s weird. There’s no politicians trying to re-criminalize homosexuality, take away wheelchair ramps, or have whites only drinking fountains. Feminism as a civil rights movement is such a no brainer it’s often used as an attack on feminism as a social rights movement. (yes I just coined that term and it’s awesome). I’m talking about the idea we don’t need feminism anymore because of course all people should be equal in the eyes of the law and now feminism is a bloated socio-politcal force just there to nit pick about commercials. And that’s what I want to explore, because the conversation about feminism has been looping for, let’s just ball park it, the last 60 years. What’s not in the public discourse anti-feminism. It’s just taken for granted that misogyny is the root of attacks on feminism and I don’t think that’s true. On the social level you don’t find attacks on feminism throwing around the word Traditional, if anything I see the idea that feminism has become out dated. Women critical of Miley Cyrus were accused of being anti-sex and dis-empowering the poor little skank (I don’t mean that I just couldn’t resist the phrasing). And I’m already bored of the notion, however accurate, that strippers are self directed powerful women exploiting lowly men who can’t control themselves. Well now that I’ve said all the things I said I was tired of hearing let’s move forward.
Ke$ha, the young female recording artist, has a lyric; “Don’t be a little bitch with the chit chat just show me where your dick’s at.” when asked to defend this stunning Shakespearean verse she claimed she said if it’s okay for male rappers to talk like that about women then it should be okay for her to do the polar opposite. This supposes two things that are false (well three things but one’s a joke.); that the way men rap about women is “okay”. It isn’t, everyone knows rap is misogynistic and most people are not “okay” with it. And secondly that the way to deal with men objectifying women is to objectify men. (The third supposition being that Ke$ha is a rapper.)
I hate that lowest common denominator definition of Fair. It’s intellectual and ethical laziness and it holds us back every time it’s used. Sadly our culture adores intellectual and ethical laziness because damn it’s fast. we don’t really care if things are wrong so long as they’re fucking quick and entertaining about it. Like in every action movie the idea that the best way to enforce the law is to go outside it, for cops to be more like criminals. the enemy would torture us so it’s okay to torture them. And it’s why in any conversation involving gender a guy will pop up and say “What about male victims of sexism!?” Not because they think now is the best time to discuss it and effectively get their ideas across but just to be ‘fair’ to the perceived abundance feminism.
Youtube is where semi-intelligent super-self-important people go to spin their wheels and feel good about it. I saw Anita Sarkeesia’s video about damsels in distress video game tropes because I love discussing tropes. I was disappointed. It’s twenty minutes of sighting examples of sexism in video games. Well, frankly, duh. Pointing out sexism in videogames is like talking about sexism in Maxim magazine. We know. Or at least I thought we did but several concerned male youtube talking heads felt it necessary to refute Anita. With varying degrees of politeness, shall we say. For her twenty minutes of feminism there are dozens of responses, some well over an hour long, of men claiming she had no point at all because of some factual error about the games themselves (Bayonetta’s clothing doesn’t disappear, her ‘clothing’ consists of her magical hair so of course she’s nude when she kills demons. Wrong about that, wrong about everything) or the free market argument that if sexism sells it’s nobody’s fault so shut up. I need to find a word for how I feel about guys who angrily rant for hours about the opinions of others and things they can’t change:
- n. A feeling for the sufferings or distresses of another or others; sympathy with the grief or misery of another; compassion; fellow-feeling; commiseration.
ah yes, Pity. These guys evidently don’t have a safe place to talk about gender in their real lives without feeling defensive and anxious. I think modern women have been better at forming tight groups where they can say things without feeling judged. Men had locker rooms. The sanctity of which was ruined by societal pressure towards homophobia and stoicism. So let’s get to my third point:
Why young men are so angry
There’s a Mitchell and Webb skit about gender in advertising. Watch it. Also if you’re shopping for me ever I really want a shirt that says Shave And Get Drunk You’re Already Brilliant. If you watch a lot of TV it’s funny ’cause it’s true. But I also ride the bus and hang out in bars and ads in those places paint a very different picture. “1 in 6 men is violent with his partner” the “Don’t be that guy” campaign, I saw an ad above a urinal telling me my child can’t sleep on my gambling receipts. The message I’m seeing for men is ‘Get out of debt so you can pay your child support you wife beating rapist.’ Less funny that time. In college enrollment women dominate in pretty much every except engineering. Naturally we need a national ad campaign and a bunch of scholarships for girls. The assumption isn’t just that boys will be okay with no encouragement it’s that we’re somehow still part of the problem. I see TEDtalks and so forth like “What guys should say to guys who say shit to women” and “What you can do end misogyny even if you don’t hit your significant other” The takeaway being it’s not enough that you don’t rape, beat, or mistreat women all you nice guys out there, it’s up to you to police our entire gender all the time. There was an instant backlash when the term Rape Culture debuted in our lexicon and I think if you read between the lines of any argument you’ll see men saying ‘would you stop calling me a fucking rapist already?’ Grown men are terrified to be around children alone, men are fearful around women in the workplace (read The XX Factor by Alison Wolf it’s great), and men are afraid to let their guard down around other men. To deal with that much anxiety you either surrender by becoming a sycophantic wimpy little male feminist or you get angry and lash out trivially at every perceived insult and injustice.
So I do think we need masculinism or a men’s liberation movement. Not in the way it’s interpreted now as a balance to crazy hyper-oppressive feminism but freedom from having masculinity being the first and foremost of our identities, personally and socially. To be treated as a unique person with unique thoughts and feelings and not instantly slotted, by men and women, on the masculinity scale and having all judgements made relative to that slot. Aside from the continuing civil rights side of feminism that’s also my interpretation of the social rights movement of modern feminism too. I naively assume we as people all want the same freedom.