Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Why I'm a Feminist

From movies, television, music and games to the workplace and the family, women are treated as inferior to men.  We have raised generation after generation to view the world and women from the point of view of men.  Women are objectified (denied agency), and are seen from the outside - our own consciousness , our thoughts and our feelings completely overlooked.

Even in our every day conversation, male pronouns dominate our vocabulary and our ideas.  Every dog we see is a 'he', every stick figure a 'he', even humans thought of as 'mankind'.  The only exceptions are boats, cars, bikes and ships - which are (not surprisingly) 'she' - because they are objects and possessions of men.
Even when we're shown cases of male violence and sexual abuse, we look at it from the man's point of view: "He must have been provoked", "He was a nice guy that just snapped", "She must have confused him with her signals", "I bet he was falsely accused, it's horrible he has to go to jail now."  We victim blame, we spit out rape/violence apologist comments, and through it all we start to see that as a society we only look through men's eyes.

Remarkably, even in defense of women we tell society to look at women as objects.  Even when we speak out against violence against women we see people telling others to imagine her as "somebody's wife, somebody's mother, somebody's daughter, or somebody's sister," As if it never occurs to us that maybe... JUST MAYBE... that woman is also a "somebody".

Movies and Television

I really shouldn't need to point out how we objectify and scrutinize and marginalize women in our movies and television.  But for the sake of consistency, I will.  I do want to start by saying Objectification doesn't necessarily mean women dolled up in varying degrees of undress purely for men's eyes.  Sexual objectification is certainly its own problem, but that is simply one part of the problem.

Women are reduced to the sum of their body parts, Photoshopped to fit an ever-narrowing standard of female beauty, and put on display as pieces of property to be owned.  This grabs our attention, and most if not all of us recognize the issue with this imagery.

Yet only focusing on the 'sexual' aspect can obscure the much bigger issue of real 'objectification' which goes on in our society.  The big problem is the difference between subject status and object status.  A subject is, by definition, active - with agency, while an object is passive - being acted upon.  For example, "Fiona stroked the cat" - we can see that 'Fiona' has subject status, while 'the cat' has object status.  Ideally, we would each find ourselves cast as either subject or object at different times in conversation and representation, because that's normal vocabulary.  However, in our society, the dominant verbage used is heavily gendered, with men granted the status of subject and women severely objectified.

These messages start at a remarkably young age in our culture.  Janice McCabe did a study that showed male characters in children's books outnumber female ones, and even when characters are gender neutral (like animals), parents often read them as male to their kids (Guardian).  This also happens in children's shows, where only a third of lead roles are female (The Independent).   It's referred to as the Smurfette Principle, where only one female character is present on an entire cast of male ones.  'Female' has become a characteristic all its own.

Our entire visual entertainment culture revolves around boys and men.  The majority of films produced tell stories about men, with women cast as girlfriends, wives, mothers or other periphery roles (LA Times).  In any given year, only about 12-15% of top grossing Hollywood movies focus on women and their stories (Motion Picture Association of America).  And those are degradingly referred to as chick flicks and are almost always focused on women looking for a man to 'complete' them, 'save' them,  or 'redeem' them in some way.

Video Games

There were about 17.4 million gamers in the US in 2012 (NPD).  This number means a significant part of our culture exists online in games, which also makes it a medium we simply can't ignore.  Just hearing a female voice used over voice-chat in online games is enough to illicit a negative reaction toward females in games.
Researchers from Ohio University ran an experiment within Halo 3 which looked to determine whether gamers reacted differently to male and female voices within the online game.  The experiment was run with two accounts, one male and one female who were not aware they were a part of the study.  For each account, identical phrases that were designed not to illicit a negative response were recorded by both the man and the woman, and were played through an iPod during live play.  The two accounts only varied in two ways - their nickname and gender representation.  245 games were recorded and played live, and 163 of those included verbal communication and were later analyzed.

The result - the female received nearly three times as many directly negative comments as the male.
The phrase "hi everybody" alone was enough to spark reactions ranging from "shut up you whore" to "so whatever that voice was, are you a hooker or are you a dude?" When the female wasn't receiving derogatory gendered language, she was asked out (New Media and Society).


Women still only make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.  That's a difference of $10,000 a year (Gender Wage Gap).

This gap starts as early as college in North America, where women make an average of 82% of what men make (AAUW).  In the first year of their careers, men typically make $7,600 more than women (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Women, on average, make up only slightly more than 10% of chief financial officers (Bloomberg).  More than 1/3 of North American companies have zero women employed in senior management positions at all (Catalyst).   Of the companies that did have women at the top in 2010 - they only made up 6.2% of those top earning positions (Catalyst).

On top of the statistical barriers that hold women back, there's the psychological roadblocks in our culture that aim to keep women in a position lower than men.  Women face a variety of stereotypes in the workplace like: They don't need more money because they're not the primary breadwinner, they can't do certain jobs that are considered men's work, they're supposed to act a certain kind of feminine in the workplace, they're not as committed to their jobs because they're the primary caregiver of their kids.  Office culture is the longest-standing gender biased area of our society, and the norms there are grossly dominated by men (Forbes). 

Why I'm a Feminist

I wrote a brief piece yesterday about some of the verbal attacks I've received in different situations, and attacks I've witnessed on friends.

The post got two responses:
abuse wise on average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day. In 2000, 1,247 women were killed by an intimate partner. The same year, 440 men were killed by an intimate partner. Intimate partner homicides accounted for 30% of the murders of women and 5% percent of the murders of men.(Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. 1993-2004, 2006.)

More people die from aids, car accidents, smoking, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and hippopotamuses. With only 20% women experiencing domestic violence in their LIFETIME. I fail to see how this abuse is an out of control problem unless you mean, "someone said something mean to me" and we should "stand against this abuse" of mean words. Sounds like you ran into a jerk and they come in all races/genders. So maybe you not talk to those people anymore instead of making a call to arms on the internet.

And this gem:
Feminists are retarded. This article is proof.  

You see, even within 5 hours of posting I was already receiving confusion, discouragement, and abuse.  THIS is why I'm a feminist.  Our patriarchal society is so overarching that we don't even think twice about slamming women when they speak out against injustice, and even go so far as to cite statistics as to why we should 'not talk to those people' anymore.

Why hadn't I thought of that?!

*Starts packing for the shack in the woods*

Monday, September 9, 2013

Why you should be a feminist

Get a sense of humor.
It was just a joke.
You're too sensitive.
This is just how it is.
This is our world, not yours.
We only gave you rights to shut you up.
You should be grateful for what we let you have.
Your kind are the reason women need to get beaten.
Learn your place.
Get on your knees where you belong.
Someone is going to rape you one day.
I hope someone finds you in an alley.
If my wife talked like you do, I'd knock her teeth out.
You need a tampon.
Someone has sand in her vagina.
Sounds like it's somebody's time of the month.
Someone needs a man to put her in her place.
Get back in the kitchen.
Make me a sandwich.
You wouldn't talk so much with my ---- in your mouth.

There is an idea that this kind of scum only exists in seedy places like poorly-lit bars or in back alleys of sketchy neighborhoods.  Wrong.  These are things I've heard said to me, and I've personally heard men say to friends of mine.  At bookstores, in offices, in coffee shops, and on the street.  The place I hear these types of things the most often though - male-dominated parts of our world.  Places that men have claimed and hold on to with a ferocity that rivals wild animals.

The irony is how often these types of comments are thrown at women who have done nothing to provoke the attack.  Simply by existing in the vicinity of men, women are now the target for these kinds of attacks.  And we are made to believe that not only do we deserve this treatment, but we need to just allow it to happen because 'it's just a joke' or 'we need to lighten up'.


I am well beyond the point of rational, calm discussion about this.  This has got to STOP.   And the only way it's going to stop is by every single person taking a stand against this abuse.

These are your sons, your husbands, your brothers, your coworkers, the people you hang out with, the people you laugh at, the people you turn a blind eye to.

These vermin are attacking your daughters, your wives, your sisters, your mothers, your friends.  Are you going to stand up for them or turn a blind eye until you find yourself standing at their graveside wondering how the hell it got so bad for them they saw no other way out??

When are we going to wake the hell up...