Get Woke

She Speak

The Undermining Conversational Experience of Himterruption
Get Woke

Feminism Is For Everyone

On Misogyny Dividing Women, Intersectional Feminism, And A Complete Annihilation of Slut Shaming
Get Woke

No Needs No Explanation (Time's Up)

Male Entitlement: On Demanding An Explanation For Refusing Unwanted Advances
Get Woke

Uninterrupted

On misogyny, street harassment, and politely saying good morning exclusively to pretty women
Get Woke

Loneliness in a Relationship

The Case For Getting Out Of Bad Relationships With Emotionally Unavailable Partners
Get Woke

Catcalls and Compliments

Defining The Difference Between A Catcall And A Compliment

March 31, 2018

Misogyny and the Men Who Love Us



It easier to ask a stranger to check their privilege than a close friend, family member or lover.
What if we all ask, every day, anyway.


In 2014 I started the blog O School - now La Femme Erotique - after several lengthy conversations with women I was close to revealed that their sexual experiences were often unfulfilling. Their pleasure wasn't just not being prioritized, it was non-existent, and though they pursued relationships with men and seemed to want to have sex, they also readily admitted that they didn't get much out of it. Strange, I thought. But why have sex if it isn't pleasurable? Further dialogue revealed motives that had nothing to do with the personal pleasure of these women, but instead motives like making a guy like them, staying in the dating game, competing with other women, solidifying commitment. Wanting to make him (whomever he might be) happy and thus aspiring to questionable goals such as being able to override one's gag reflex at will, being able to hold one's breath for long periods of time, being able to put large objects down one's throat without (much) discomfort. Not because any of these things would feel good, and in fact, it was usually the opposite. But because these things would make someone else feel good, and that's all that sex was to many of the women I spoke to. They weren't even upset about it, they were resigned to the idea that their role in this particular arena was to facilitate a pleasurable experience for someone else. Their romantic pursuits, then, were less about their own experience and more about achieving the prestige of being the best at whatever sexual act was all the rage at that particular time (though curiously, blowjobs seem to be the Chanel suit of sex acts).

That saddened me, as I was lucky enough to - for better or for worse - have discovered the joys of masturbation early enough in life to enjoy very regular and sometimes spontaneous orgasms. That isn't to imply that I had been encouraged to explore this. Rather, I had been strictly forbidden. But happily I disobeyed, and by the time I became sexually active I was familiar enough with my personal pleasure to want it and even expect it in a sexual interaction. What I found was that despite female pleasure in sexual interactions being almost incidental (like when you sit your boyfriend down to help him understand your body, and he says, "Baby, of course I want you to enjoy it too." The "too" giving away the truth that he may not even be conscious of - that his pleasure in this merging of the bodies is assumed while yours is a nice goal to have that you two can "work on") the female body seems to be inherently capable of much more pleasure in a single sexual encounter than the male body, and for a prolonged period of time. It isn't as though after orgasm our vaginas close up and our nerve endings cease to function for fifteen to thirty minutes. But if there is so much raw potential for exquisite pleasure, why is it that so many women experience so little of this pleasure in their relationships with men? Something had to be done, I thought. And I was going to do it.

"I want to be the Oprah of orgasms," I said to my best friend as we sat discussing the possibilities of my mission. Would it be a book? Would it be a YouTube channel? Would it be a blog? "You get an orgasm. And you get an orgasm. Everybody look under their seats - everybody gets an orgasm!" 

Four years later, while I still look back on the conversation fondly, I can't help but sigh at the now obviousness of my naïveté. 

My mission, you see, was to teach women how to enjoy sex. To stop thinking about what they looked like naked, or whether someone was judging their love handles, but to lose themselves to the pleasure instead. To not be afraid to ask for what they wanted, to make a suggestion, be it subtle or bold. To simply pursue their own pleasure in bed - wait for it - just like men do. Yes. These were indeed the early teachings of a very optimistic, very orgasmic, 25 year old me. 

To this day my female sexuality blog hosts less than 30 published posts. As the months went on, it got harder and harder to write things like Orgasm 101 or Faking It. Why? Well...like any responsible writer I researched. And my research seemed to be distracting me from my goals. I found myself soon writing posts about street harassment. About catcalling. About the micro-aggressions that make women uncomfortable on dates and even in long term relationships. About how frustrating it is that women are systematically made to think of ourselves as objects for male pleasure

I thought about how I felt when I declined to give a blowjob on my period when I was 20 and the guy I was seeing tried to guilt me by saying that his ex-girlfriend, who he didn't hold in the highest esteem, "at least" had done that for him. I thought about how it felt when I slept over the house of a guy I was seeing when I was 26, didn't want to have sex, and he angrily confronted me the next day as though I was required to explain why I'd failed to please him. I thought about the silent pressure to have sex before bed in nearly every relationship I've ever been in. The cuddle that turns into the caress that turns into the grope that turns into an unfavorable attitude if any of these is turned down, no matter how tired I am or how early work is, or if I'm just not in the mood or if I really do have a headache. I thought about the pressure to have sex in the morning in nearly every relationship I've ever been in. The terrible experience of being awoken from my sleep by an uninvited hand brushing intimate parts of my body, not because this counts as foreplay, because foreplay is a mutual act with a partner who is awake and responsive, but rather because they are awake, and they are ready, and suddenly I am not the sleeping human next to them, I am the sexy thing in bed which is very convenient because they would like to have sex now. I thought about the absolute obliviousness of partners who sit in bed wearing confusion on their faces when I opt to start the day by getting out of bed rather than by getting on top of them. How their eyes follow me around the room, watching, waiting, because surely I'm going to come back to bed, right? Surely I'm not going to just...get out of bed without...no...surely not. Because somehow the ease of which expectation becomes obligation never occurred to them, nor has the absolute distaste of being treated like a prostitute in one's own relationship. 

Maybe the problem wasn't women not understanding how to enjoy sex. Maybe the problem was how women could possibly be expected to enjoy sex with men in a world that doesn't even pretend to give two shits about our basic human rights to safety and comfort, let alone pleasure. 

Soon I had to start another blog altogether for all the posts - nay, essays - that were springing up like weeds all over my female sexuality blog. And shortly after Brilliant Bitchin' was born I was no longer gunning to be Oprah for orgasms. I was a feminist. I was an activist. Orgasms for all? - Sure. Maybe someday, but there were more immediate concerns. Concerns like justice, and I damn well wanted justice. 

It's a term that's being used now - intimate justice - to address some of the aforementioned trends that we see in heterosexual relationships. To address the fact that men expect to drive the sexual experience and women tend to be seen as passengers. (e.g.: In Sex and the City, every other story line was about whatever strange preference the man had in bed, and how one of the four female leads would have to adjust to his preference. What about her preferences? Why is she adjusting to him as opposed to them adjusting to each other? Think about it...) To address the irony of men brazenly declaring things like, "I don't eat pussy," and then delineating the frequency and ferocity of which they require their dicks to be sucked in order that they might consider "making" some hypothetical woman their girlfriend. To address the term "blue balls", and how it is used to coerce sex acts out of women. To address the fact that in popular culture, in our society, a patriarchal society riddled with misogyny, male pleasure is prioritized over female discomfort. Blue balls tells the listener that the problem is not the woman being pressured into performing a sexual act even though she doesn't want to. Blue balls tells the listener that the problem isn't that the man in this situation is knowingly pressuring an unwilling woman into performing sexual acts. Blue balls tells the listener that the problem is that an erection is being ignored. 

Life does a very good job of preparing women to be excellent sexual objects. Magazines tell us what to wear, how to hide our wrinkles (when we're 17), at what angle to stand when we're being photographed, 50 tricks to blow his mind in bed. We're bombarded with advertisements that almost never feature entire women, but rather fragmented bits of sexy body parts. Sweaty stomachs, red, glossy lips on an open mouth and some phallic symbol nearby like a lipstick or a banana or the top of a beer bottle. Underwear ads clearly more interested in selling breasts than bras. High heels attached to a pair of legs attached to an ass that is not attached to a person. You can't see the person - all you see is ass, and legs, and high heels, and if you're lucky it makes you angry but on some level all of us are very unlucky because all of us at one point or another have been intrigued by such an image, aroused by such an image, or inspired by such an image. You go to the movies or watch TV and you don't even get to decide what is beautiful anymore. You are told. You are told via camera angles, and slow motion, and a long pan often from feet to face (tell me - do you think it's a coincidence that a woman's face, the place where most of her personhood lies, is often saved for last?) and you immediately understand that this woman is sexy. The camera tells you not just where to look but how to feel. And if you're a woman, what you should aspire to. 

This is what life does to us, I realized, and then we wonder why our interpersonal relationships with men are so fraught with intermittent bouts of push and pull, the origins of which are supposedly inexplicable. Is it though? Is it so inexplicable, when even casual conversations harbor conceal carry instances of patriarchy, from the lover who gently and cautiously asks whether you've ever considered going down on him "to completion" (translation: it would be great if you didn't stop until I finished), to the long term partner who thinks your desire for any potential children to share both your last names is "interesting". Conceptually. Of course. Although he isn't sure how practical it is. We experience these conversations in which we are so thoughtlessly undermined, so casually, so frequently, and yet the tensions we feel in even our most intimate relationships are labeled inexplicable? We accept these backhanded apologies à la I don't know why you're upset, but I'm sorry if I did something to upset you, or, I'm sorry that you feel that way, and there's a question about where the tension is coming from? What it's all about? How about - oh, I don't know - the not inability, but often unwillingness to step outside one's own experience in the relationships with the people you profess to love the most and check your privilege! 

We tell ourselves things like not all men. No. Not all men. There are different men out there, good men out there. We just have to be patient and find them. Oh, he made a sexist joke, or likes choking in the bedroom though he can't explain why, or watches too much porn? He must not be a good man, then, but don't worry, all you have to do is find a good one. 

This is where we get into trouble. 

So much of social change is dependent on calling out the daily wrongs that we have become desensitized to as a result of being immersed in the problematic culture from birth. And even if it isn't easy and we aren't always fully prepared for this, it is much easier to call out these wrongs when they are committed by strangers.

It is not easy for me, when someone walks by me and makes an overtly sexual comment, to muster the nerve to turn and say to them, "That's inappropriate." It would be easier to keep my head down and say nothing. But I can't. The commitment I made to gender equality, to justice, demands my participation, so even as my cheeks flush and my heart beats furiously and I steel myself for the backlash - and there's always backlash - I make myself speak up. It isn't easy. But I promised. 

It is not easy for me, when I'm at work and I go next door for a large apple cinnamon tea, and the man behind the counter says, "Be careful, it's hot. Hot like you," to look him square in the eyes and say, "That isn't nice to say. It's making me really uncomfortable." And to hold that gaze, not look away shyly as though I'm the one that should be embarrassed, until I receive the apology I'm owed. No, it isn't easy. But I make myself do it, because I promised. 

Promise is key, here, because I believe that I love you is a promise. A declaration not only of love itself but the things encapsulated by the ideals of love, such as care, loyalty, trust, and respect. 

Nothing that I feel when calling a stranger on a misogynist act compares to what happens inside me when I'm sitting at the dinner table and my father makes a misogynistic joke. None of that compares to what I feel when I'm out to dinner with a male friend and he lazily comments on the bodies of the women in the room as though they're part of the decor. Nothing compares to that moment in bed where I don't want to do something, or just don't feel like it right now, and I'm met with an exasperated sigh of obvious disappointment from the man who regularly tells me he loves me. These are the moments where it's tempting to say nothing, because I don't want to argue with my dad. I don't want to start a disagreement in public with a good friend. I don't want to fight with my lover in our bed. But the minute I say nothing I become tacitly complicit in my second-class citizenship and I just...I can't. And then I'm in that argument with my dad, or in that spat at the dinner table where the word feminist is being thrown in my face sarcastically, or in that cold war with my lover over his entitlement, and these conversations for those men may never be more than annoying or exhausting, whereas for me these are not surface wounds. These are deep, fractures from which, if I'm honest, I'll never really recover. Because in each of these it's as though that promise, the one made when you say to someone I love you, has been broken. It is so much easier to potentially make waves over misogynistic injury with a stranger, than to do it with someone who loves me. Someone that I love. Someone with whom I want to have a relationship. 

Just not one in which I'm subjugated. 

I'm less interested, now, in teaching women to ask for what they want in bed than I am in encouraging women to speak up. Not just on the internet. Not just in the middle of 5th avenue when that construction worker says that weird thing. Not just on your way out of the corner deli. These interactions are important, yes, but they're fleeting, and if misogyny were a plant, this would be the flowery part of the plant that lives above ground. The obvious part that everyone can see. The part that you can cut down all you want but it will probably grow back because you didn't pull it up by the roots

What I'm realizing more and more is that the roots of misogyny run deep into our intimate lives. There are misogynist roots adorning the dinner table at which the man dominates the entire conversation and the women at the table exchange knowing glances because they know that pointing our this tendency will only make him further aggressive - waiting out his monologue is best. There are misogynist roots adorning the bed posts in the bedroom in which a woman has expressed, numerous times, discomfort taking off her bra, but her partner, though fully aware of her discomfort, repeatedly asks her to. Every time they supposedly "make love". Because it turns him on, and what's the harm every now and then. These are the moments in which we need to speak up the most. The people we need to speak to are the men in our lives we're closest to. What does it matter if we volunteer to pull up misogynistic weeds at the community garden if they're happily thriving in our own backyards?  

It is very easy to walk around thinking that we're all "woke", and that someone else, in some other town, with some other political opinion, or what have you, is the problem. It is easy to assume that only men say and do misogynistic things, not women, or that only bad men do these things, so that if there is a good man in your life and he says or does something - even if it hurts you - it couldn't be that. He's just not like that. 

We need to get over this fraudulent idea that some people, by virtue of their political opinions or ownership of pink yarn, are automatically exempt and beyond examination. None of us is exempt - we all live in the world together and there is literally no place in the world, no region and no time period in which women are not/have not been subjugated. Frequent examination is the necessary stuff of deprogramming, the stuff of revolution, and justice demands that this be done without exception. 

We cannot make exceptions. Not for our fathers, or brothers, or best friends, or boyfriends, or husbands. Never. We must always challenge, even when it's hard. Even when it hurts. Because when it comes to the impact of sexism and misogyny, that pain is felt not only by women and girls but by men and boys throughout the world. 

All of us. Without exception.  









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March 14, 2018

She Speak: The Undermining Coversational Experience of Himterruption



On mansplaining, hepeating, hephrasing, himterrupting and himpathy 

The awareness of misogyny in our every day social culture is on the rise. From calling out cat callers to finally bringing powerful, privileged men guilty of decades of systematic, habitual predatory behavior to justice, society at large is becoming, in popular terminology, woke. A part of that social consciousness has been giving a name to every day reflections of patriarchy, sexism and misogyny in order that they might be more tangibly identified, called out and subsequently dealt with.

Of course where there is feminism there is backlash, and many of the phrases that have been named: the mansplain, the hepeat, the manspread to name a few, have also been (often intentionally) ill-defined by those that vehemently resist feminist effort to draw attention to the issue they represent.

Today I will explain the definition of these words - some of them of my own creation - the origins of the ones I did not myself create, and attempt to communicate how these words are actually experienced by women in a response to repeated attempts to minimize these gender asymmetrical phenomena.

(Note: The only word I will not be exploring in depth is "manspread," because this article will focus on the conversational effect of gender asymmetrical speech habits. However, for those who do not know and/or have not seen the witty ads on the NYC subways, a "manspread" is when a man sits with his knees dramatically spread apart in a public area such as a subway, bus, bench, etc. - presumably to accommodate his genital area - such that he ends up occupying the space of more than one seat and, effectively, prevents an efficient use of the shared space. While children and adults alike are criticized for not taking their backpacks off their backs, and women are criticized if they rest a handbag on an adjacent seat (even if they demonstrate a willingness to move it once the space becomes crowded), the "spread" usually goes unaddressed (except by the MTA) as it seems to call a certain necessity due to biological manhood into question, despite the man's obvious ability to close his legs.)

Before I jump into definitions I want to briefly touch on one quick thing, and coin a phrase while I'm at it.

The Angry Feminist Paradox

The rest of this article will include definitions of words made up of other words with the words "man", "he", and "him" inserted into them. There will be tongue in cheek humor. There will be instances where annoyance and outright anger is expressed. Even in though in the earlier drafts of this, I did in fact write "not all men", I have since deleted it. Because that is not the point.

This article is about the fact - NOT my hormonal, female, emotional perception, but the fact - that men overwhelmingly speak more than women in public spaces. While in personal conversations women are said to talk more, while we may in fact use more words, men still dominate the conversation in terms of time spent talking. Men interrupt more than women, and interrupt women more than men. I have had to tell loved ones - family members, close friends, intimate partner - to stop interrupting me, and usually I am made to feel via some backhanded apology as though I am being aggressive or oversensitive.

This isn't about good men versus bad men. These phenomenons happen in our culture because we are all raised in it. Yes, there are good men out there, not as in "a few" good men. Lots of them. My father is one, my friends are some more, my boyfriend is an incredibly good man and yet - guess what - they all have at least one of the conversational habits in this article, some of them more than one. Not because they're bad, not even because they mean to do these things, but because it is something that so often goes unacknowledged that they don't even realize there is a problem to begin with, let alone that they're contributing to it.

So while I talk about these things I'm not going to sound too happy about it, but guess what? I'm talking about what it feels like being treated like a child as an adult, being constantly interrupted, having other people take credit for something I just said five minutes ago. Any normal person would be upset about these things, so I'm not interested in the backlash for being an angry feminist. We live in a world of enduring gender inequality and oppression where women's voices are not as welcome as men's in the workplace, in public space, or even sometimes in their own kitchens.

So no, I'm not happy about. It's not a happy topic, no need to serve it with a smile.

Now then...onto the article...

Mansplain

Though I have heard it ill-defined as any time a man corrects a woman, this is not what it means to mansplain, nor is necessarily mansplaining every time a man explains something to a woman. While the term is usually credited to Rebecca Solnit for her 2008 essay Men Explain Things To Me, she maintains that she didn't coin it. The experience she describes, however, does serve to illustrate mansplaining perfectly. The correct definition is as follows:


When a speaker (usually a man) explains something to someone (usually a woman) in a condescending manner. The speaker need not be an expert in the matter (and often isn't) but assumes that he is more knowledgeable in the subject area than the woman he proceeds to explain it to. Though the presumption is usually unconscious, it is based solely on gender. The experience of condescension is often punctuated by the woman in question actually being knowledgeable herself in these instances of excessive explanation, equally, if not more so than the speaker.

In Men Explain Things To Me Solnit recalls a conversation following a book party in which a man insisted that they talk about her writing. He inquired about her writing as though he'd been asking a grade school student how their flute lessons had been going. When she started to talk about a book she'd recently published he not only interrupted her but did so to talk about a very important book on the same topic that had been reviewed by the NY Times, one that she just had to read. She was so thrown by this that she lingered a bit in self-doubt before realizing that he'd been talking about her book! Her friend, however, did realize what was happening and said "that's her book!" three times before it sunk in for him. It turns out that he hadn't even read the oh, so important book he just had to tell her about in an effort to make her aware of the real writing she should be aspiring toward. He'd only read the review. Perhaps that's why he didn't realize he'd been mansplaining to none other than the author herself?

PERSONAL MANSPALIN STORIES

The "Well, Actually" Mansplain:

Some three years ago I was sitting in a cafe proof-reading Slut: Declaring war on a dirty word, when a man looked over my shoulder and asked me what I was doing. First, I knew right away that he didn't really care what I was doing, this was just an ice-breaker to flirt, but I was in a good mood and admittedly much more tolerant of being flirted with at inconvenient times back then. When I told him that I was proof-reading an article, he took one look at the title and proceeded to spend the next twenty minutes telling me about his world travels, his experience with monks, and the fact that there is no word for, oh say, "asshole" in their language. "Actually, it isn't about the word," he told me. "It is about the need for it. You don't declare war on the word, you attack the culture that needs it." Mind you that had he bothered to read the article he would have discovered that's exactly I'd done. But he had no interest in what I'd written and, in that, what I thought or had to say. What he was interested in doing was hearing himself speak as he arrogantly presumed to tell me how best to redraft the article he hadn't even skimmed.

The "Didn't Catch Your Sarcasm" Mansplain:

In a text conversation following a first date, a man made reference to my apparent multi-talents by saying, Well aren't you a renaissance woman. I jokingly replied, I'm not that old! followed by a classic lol. I thought the "lol" would indicate that I was kidding. Joking. Being a smart ass. Unfortunately the man responded by saying, No, when someone is called a renaissance person it means they are good at a lot of different things.

My sarcasm relied on the fact that the term renaissance man is pretty common knowledge for anyone outside of grade school. Unfortunately he missed it because he wholeheartedly believed that I - a 29 year old woman, and I writer at that - had never heard the term before. But not to worry. Mr. Smarter-Than-You to the rescue...

The "Dictionary" Mansplain:

I'm having trouble coming up with a specific example of this because it happens so often. But picture this...

You're sitting in a place that is noisy. Maybe it's an outdoor concert. Maybe it's a movie theater. Maybe it's a loud, crowded bar. The person you're with says something. It's noisy, so you didn't hear all of what they said. So you do what most people do when they didn't hear something. You squint your eyes (though this doesn't help you hear), lean forward a little, usually favoring the ear on your dominant side, and say (a little too loud) some variation of, "What was that?" I've been known to also say a simple, "What?" or even, "I'm sorry?".

And then, instead of repeating what they'd just said, the person speaking assumes not that you didn't hear them, but that you didn't understand them. They then proceed to define a part of what they just said. It might be a word they assume you don't know the definition of. It might be a current event they assume you hadn't heard about yet. It might be an author they assume you don't know, or a movie they assume you haven't seen, stop me anytime.

Because even in a loud, crowded place where people are asked to repeat themselves all the time, the speaker is quicker to assume your ignorance than the obvious.

(Lifehack: To avoid this altogether I've started saying, "Say that again?" This way I'm not required to give a "The issue was that I didn't hear you, not that I didn't understand," retort post-mansplaination.)

The "Here, Let Me Help You" Mansplain:

As I was closing out my personal bar tab, a man interrupted me.
"Want me to show you a trick?" he asked.
He then proceeded to explain to me that an easy way to calculate 10% was to move the decimal.
I was 25 years old at the time.
The same man also witnessed me opening a can of chicken broth and, because I was wielding the can opener in a fashion I can only describe as south paw, came up behind me and said, "Do you want me to show you how to use it?"
A can opener. Did I want him to show me...an adult...how to use...a can opener.

Mansplaining essentially attempts to relegate the (usually) woman who is on the receiving end of it to a child-like position by assuming her ignorance - as offering these "teaching" moments necessitates the presumption of her ignorance on whatever matter is being addressed - and/or doing so from a position that assumes her deference to/admiration of the speaker, even (and usually) when there is no basis for such a viewpoint. This puts women in a position of not being taken seriously in situations, or not being taken as seriously as the surrounding men or man she is speaking to, for no other reason but her gender, as well as asking her to automatically take a man's knowledge at face value based on his gender requiring no other evidence than such. No matter his merit, he is still considered the authority in all plausible forms of the exchange, even when he is wrong and finds himself corrected by her. He might fancy himself impressed in such a moment. The presumption of authority is always there, even when the knowledge to back it is lacking.

Similarly, I've also had more than one man proclaim that I am exceptionally smart, only to explain that I am smart because I know things that they do not, or have proven them wrong on occasion. So these men have automatically used themselves as the rubric for which to measure my intelligence against? How arrogant is that?!

This is all a very clinical, academic description of mansplaining. In practice it basically means being considered inferior in discussions with and by people who have no right to consider you thus. When someone tells you something you already know it is invalidating, because they assumed your ignorance, not your intelligence. When strangers tell you what you "should" do with your life, or job, or even what movie or TV show you "should" watch (because screw your preferences, they know best what cultural value you would derive from the viewing) it completely negates your sense of self, as your "self" was never considered. You become merely a sounding board for whomever is speaking to you. They could be speaking to anyone else. It doesn't matter that it's you, so long as you smile, nod, appear gracious and promise to consider their well meant advise, or thank them for the "interesting" information. When what you say doesn't matter, and what you think doesn't matter, and above all when what you know doesn't matter - despite knowing a lot, often more than those deciding your knowledge irrelevant! - then in effect you don't matter.

That is what mansplaining does to women. Makes us feel irrelevant.


Hepeat

As per the former, in instances where misogyny can invisibly dominate conversational relations between the genders, a woman's words are not always heard in the same light, with the same weight, as a man's.

One phenomenon that highlights this kind of occurrence is the hepeat. A hepeat has occurred when a woman says something that is ignored. It could be a declarative sentence. It could be a suggestion. It could be an idea. Whichever, it is ignored by her listeners. Until - and sometimes only seconds have gone by between! - a man repeats whatever she has just said. And alas, his words are celebrated like the second coming. I am not talking about communicating the same idea but with a quantifiable difference in style, verbiage or interpersonal communication skills. I am talking about literally just repeating the sentence, suggestion or idea that flew quietly under the radar. And, of course, not crediting the original source.

Examples:

MAN 1: These sexual harassment allegations are crazy right now

MAN 2: Tell me about it. Every week there's a new list.

WOMAN: And apparently the Trump allegations are back - 14 women.

MAN 2: The good news is, at least something is finally being done about these old, privileged guys being absolute creeps.

MAN 1: It's too bad it's only hitting the Democrats. Al Franken resigning, and all while Trump's still in office.

MAN 2: Yeah, but he's catching heat too. More women have come forward.

MAN 1: Oh yeah?

MAN 2: Yeah, like 14 different women...

This happens so often in casual conversation I can't even tell you. I can't tell you how many times I've found myself repeating the same sentence verbatim, if only to make sure my voice works, to see my words go unacknowledged. That must not have been very interesting, I think, except that ten minutes later a man says the same thing and now it's a conversation topic. So one could still say that I'm not interesting, but not because of my ideas, but because I'm the one that has them, which are two very different things. The former may encourage one to just...read more. The latter (short of a gender transition) one can do nothing about.

Often - and this may just be my personal experience - I find that the man who repeats what you've said without crediting you often glances over at you while speaking, or once the topic has picked up. Does he know he repeated exactly what you said before, or is the glance only subconscious, as though your words only managed to register on the outskirts of his brain, like advertisements on the train?

The world may never know.

The worst part is that when one points out that this is happening it often makes their words even less prioritized, because now rather than casually participating in the conversation like everyone else, they are demanding to be heard. And making demands on feminist grounds? - not a popular move, miss lady.


Hephrase

This one seems minor, but really it's not. One may argue that this is a very particular type of mansplain. The hephrase occurs when a woman says something, and a man takes it upon himself to put what she has said into his own words. Except...

Granted, that there are some people who just need to do this no matter what. Usually it occurs more in classroom settings in this regard and is attributed to these people being auditory learners; only by repeating and sort of explaining a concept aloud "in their own words" can they feel secure in their understanding of it.

What I'm describing is more about dominance. This can be observed when a woman starts a conversation and a man rephrases what she has just said in his own words, effectively resetting the entire conversation so he is leading it, and it's happening on his terms. 

You may be hesitant to accept my view and to this I respond, prove me wrong. Go observe. Give it two weeks. Make it a point to listen to conversations that lack gender difference. Listen to men talking to men, women talking to women, and observe the flow of conversation. Then listen to inter-gender conversation. And observe this phenomenon:

A woman speaks, says something, and a man rephrases it as if to say, so you mean, and does this as though to clarify the parameters of the conversation before it can continue. Usually he is interrupting the woman in order to do this. Sometimes by interjecting in the middle of her sentence, sometimes by interjecting while she is taking a breath between sentences but it is clear that she isn't finished speaking.

Two notable things are happening here.

The first being dominance. By rephrasing her point in his own words, and asking her to say "yes, I mean that..." and continue from there, the man has essentially taken charge of the conversation. It's like a mansplain and a hepeat in one blow. He has basically asserted the topic of conversation such that it is happening in his words, on his terms, via his understanding of the matter, and made her a participant in his conversation rather than participating in hers.

The second thing to note is that, as in many of these gender asymmetric conversational situations, it forces her onto the defensive. It forces her to either say, "yes, that's what I meant," or "no, that's not what I meant" but with either choice she is made to respond or one might go as far as to say answer to him. If she is busy defending an idea, she isn't articulating new ones. He becomes the driver of the conversation, the authority in the conversation, and she ends up trying over and over to clarify the point that he continues to derail and take his own way.

It is most noticeable when the woman doesn't go along with the hephrase and instead asserts her point again, ala No, that isn't what I said, or No, that isn't what I meant. Rather than simply listening or - god forbid - asking a question, the man will often attempt, again, to summarize her meaning in his own words, and then again, and again, until finally caving and asking in exasperated form - "well then what do you mean?" Leave alone that had he just allowed her to speak in the first place her meaning would have been perfectly clear.

Example:

WOMAN: So I was watching this great movie about the philosophy of time as a linear concept versus a continuum, where...  

MAN: So time travel. 

WOMAN: Well, no. It wasn't about time travel, per say. It was exploring the idea of whether time moves in one, constant direction or...

MAN: Yeah, I know what you mean. That's the idea of time travel. Like Einstein's theory that...

And so on and so forth. 

The argument I'm making here is that by doing this in conversation, the man in the conversation ends up hijacking the conversation rather than participating in a woman's proposed topic of discussion. Often, even if the woman stands her ground, because this tension inevitably creates a negative and disagreeable atmosphere the topic is often dropped in mutual frustration and, whether not it was his conscious intention, the woman has been successfully silenced.


Himterrupting

A significant amount of research has been done to understand how the socialization of boys and girls impact the conversations the genders have when they become men and women. One study shows that,  in public space, particularly in business, women speak 25% of the time whereas men speak 75% of the time. What's more is that women are perceived as talking "too much" when they begin speaking 30% of the time. Regarding interruptions, a recent study looked at 10 male-male conversations, 10 female-female conversations, and 11 female-male conversations. In the same sex conversations, there were 7 instances of interruptions. In the mixed sex conversations, however, there were 48 instances of interruptions, 46 of them in which the man interrupted the woman.  (Source)

Just a quick statistical plug before anyone tries to tell me that it's all in my head. (More on that later.)

What sucks about being interrupted when you are a woman is that you have been taught from the time you could understand words - in fact this was probably the method of teaching you words - that little girls are made of sugar, and spice, and everything nice. Nice. We are supposed to be nice. Which means that when I man interrupts you, you let him. The obligatory feeling of being a "lady", and being polite, prohibits you from rudely interrupting the person who rudely interrupted you and, if you dare to, you become the problem for aggressively pointing it out!

Standard interruption takes many forms, from people who interrupt randomly because their phone went off and proceed to narrate their text conversations like court stenographers, to people who abruptly proclaim that they have to use the bathroom and run for it in the middle your sentence.

Himterruption, however, is a special breed, and it usually takes two forms.

The Elaborator

This happens when the himterrupter has particular difficultly with listening. Somehow the act of listening gets confused with the act of being told or taught something, and the himterrupter seemingly cannot stand the idea of you teaching him something. Simply allowing you to speak may give you the false impression that he isn't already knowledgable on the subject you're talking about, and that just won't do, so he finds a way to interject his knowledge into the conversation by way of interrupting you in order to either define a word you've used, add a detail, or elaborate on an idea.

For example:

WOMAN: My umbrella broke yesterday. It was so frustrating. I was walking to the bank, which is usually a quick seven minute walk away, but because of the sleet —

MAN: Oh, you mean when there's a mix of rain, snow, and sometimes hail?

WOMAN: Yes...sleet.... Anyway, because of the sleet it took forever.

It could also look like...

WOMAN: I can never decide what the wear when the weather is like this and the hail is only intermittent.

MAN: Oh, you mean sleet?

[woman sighs audibly]

WOMAN: Yes, sleet. Anyway...

Why is this a problem? In both cases, while the man was technically responding to what was being said, he wasn't responding in a way that contributed to the conversation. If anything the conversation was derailed as in both instances the woman had to get back to her point after the interjection. In the first example the woman is trying to tell the story of her umbrella breaking. In the second she is talking about the challenges of dressing for inconsistent weather. But in both cases, he responds in a way that completely ignores the overall point of the story, and is clearly meant to do nothing more than demonstrate his understanding of the word sleet. These kind of interruptions are absolutely gratuitous.

The Subject Changer

Similar to the elaborator, the subject changer is seemingly incapable of listening. He is much more comfortable being the speaker. He is also much more comfortable talking about what he wants to talk about, and has no qualms about outright changing the subject.

Read any article about being a good listener. Whether the context of the article is about being a better listener in a corporate environment, in a parent-child relationship, or in an intimate partnership, one of the steps is always to essentially paraphrase what the speaker has just said when you respond, if only to demonstrate that you were listening. Another suggestion is to ask a question about what the person has just said in order to encourage them to elaborate.

Subject changers fail on both counts.

If you have lived in the world for a certain amount of time it is very obvious when a person is at the very beginning of a story. But subject changers do not acknowledge these obvious signs when they choose the himterrupt. Instead...

WOMAN: I had to worse morning yesterday. I was walking to the bank and the weather completely destroyed by umbrella.

MAN: Yeah, I didn't have a great morning yesterday either. I thought I was going to get a lot done, but it turned out to be rather unproductive. First, I woke up later than expected...

Sure, it may seem like the man is responding on topic. Technically. But he doesn't seem to be interested in what the woman just said. He doesn't even acknowledge it besides using the topic vaguely as a springboard into his own story. And what his response definitely doesn't do is encourage her to elaborate. Rather, his response assumes that she is done speaking and encourages her to listen to him.

Lifehack: While calling out someone for interrupting may feel validating, it often just ends up being the beginning of an argument or an opportunity for the person to deflect and proclaim - even if they talk significantly more than you to begin with - that you interrupt them equally or even more than they interrupt you. In a relationship you care about it makes sense to be direct about it. However, if I find myself in a conversation with a man who is relative stranger, and he tries to interrupt me, I just keep talking like I don't notice.

Women are so often interrupted that people don't think twice about it, not even when it's mid-sentence, and we just stop talking and allow it to happen.

Don't. The person interrupting you will probably persist at first, because they expected you to stop talking when they started. But at some point (and it takes longer for some than others) they'll realize that you aren't being rude by continuing to speak, they're being rude by trying to push you to stop by talking over you, and they'll back down. It's noisy game of chicken at first, but trust me, it makes a point.


Himpathy

This is a word that I first read used by Kate Manne in Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny. It is society's tendency to side with men when issues of sexism and misogyny are brought to light, and both men and women are guilty of this.

Look no further than the recent sexual allegations that started the #MeToo campaign. Women were publicly called out for hearing of allegations against men in Hollywood and immediately saying they doubt they'd behave that way, couldn't believe it, etc. which of course is an indirect way of saying that the woman who came forward was lying. When the allegations against Bill Cosby first came out, even when there were well over a dozen, TV personalities were still grappling with it. I don't want to believe it, they'd say, but why would so many different women lie? It happens on college campuses, too, when a boy rapes a girl and the school minimizes it to be some lesser offense, with a lesser punishment, or no punishment at all. And defends this decision by talking about what a bright boy he is with such a promising future, his whole life ahead of him. And wouldn't it be a shame if all that were taken away? To say nothing of what happens to a person's whole life after they are raped. Forget all about that - he's the victim now...

That is himpathy, and it is part of the paradox of living in a time when the patriarchal society is not yet dismantled.

It isn't just women's voices that are not as welcome in public space (or private space, if we're honest). Our issues aren't either. Just look at how much backlash one can receive for simply being a feminist. It is somehow seen as a dirty word, and even though gender inequality is still blatantly problematic, advocating for equality is misconstrued as an effort to take over.

Himpathy stems from the fact that because right now the scales are imbalanced in favor of men, balancing them inevitably means that some things will be taken away from men. Nothing unjust, mind you, but certainly some privileges that currently come at women's expense. Himpathy may arise in conversation when women do speak out against any of the above conversational habits, particularly if they call it out while a conversation is taking place as opposed to talking about it at a separate time (because most men are very comfortable talking about these things in an abstract way, but less so when being called out for the same behaviors).

Remember when I brought up not just a man's tendency to interrupt women, but a woman's tendency to just stop talking? That is a benefit of social inequality that men currently enjoy, whether or not they realize it - the lack of pushback from women when they are dominated in conversation. Add to that the fact that women are taught not only to be passive when enduring these things, but friendly. Ideally the patriarchy would have women stop talking immediately when interrupted, listen intently, and then later lean in intently and ask a question that encourages her interrupter to keep talking.

In studies regarding "interrupters" it has been revealed that some people - more likely to be men - are just more likely to interrupt anyone. They do it as a way to communicate excited participation in conversations. However, this tends not to damage male-male conversational balance in the same way that it does male-female balance because men overwhelmingly do not yield the floor as readily as women do. Men are more likely to interrupt back or to never stop speaking in the first place. But this also seems to be why, especially in business environments, even men who are prone to interrupt are more likely to interrupt women than other men. One writer described it as an instinct that he doesn't really notice unless he thinks about it, like instinctively opting to sit next to women in public spaces as opposed to men because since women tend to draw themselves inward, yield the armrest, etc. men know that means more space for themselves. In conversation, whether it is happening at a conscious level or not, men instinctively understand that interrupting a woman is less likely to result in a shouting match and more likely to result with them winning the floor.

Thus it becomes an expectation, and if you've ever had a man react with indignation if you've failed to sit with both your elbows on your stomach on the subway to make more space for his elbows as he plays a game on his phone, you understand what happens when such expectations - however unfair - are not met. Himpathy is what happens.

So what does himpathy look like? It can definitely take several different forms, but here are a few notable ones:

1. Gaslighting
2. Objection to Female Aggression
3. Male Behavior Defense

Gaslighting

The simple that didn't happen. Let's say you call out someone for mansplaining, and let's flesh out the situation for a moment. You both work in video editing, and he makes a comment about using a green screen for a certain type of scene. You don't agree that it would be the best approach, so you voice that opinion. Rather than arguing why it would work, he explains to you that all you would have to do is setup the green screen, record the scene in front of it, then later use the key effect to drop in the desired background. Perhaps you respond like this:

"I know how Final Cut works, but thanks for the mansplain."

"I didn't mansplain! I was just explaining..." How Final Cut works. To a video editor. Yes. Exactly.

This is going to happen, and sometimes it can be even worse than the offense itself. Moving away from conversational oppression for a moment, this happens a lot in terms of harassment. Both men and women alike seem to be more comfortable believing that sexual harassment is not or did not happen in a given circumstance, and it is not uncommon to be talked out of discomfort regarding something that you know is not appropriate. How many times has someone said something a little off color to you that you knew had sexual undertones, but everyone told you it was imagined. They were just being friendly, or you were just too sensitive, or they don't know how to talk to women. Only for it to become perfectly clear later on when a much more obvious line was crossed.

If it comes down to he said, she said (and even though gun control shifted the national conversation, I still believe that this will continue to be worked on...) his side is more likely to by sympathized with, while she is more likely to be disbelieved, and gaslighting is a way of making her disbelieve herself.

Crying Aggressive Female

Here is a real life example no more than a week old. I was at a bar pretty late and some guys I'd been introduced to that night were discussing the Trump presidency. That's a really emotional topic for me, so I kept my head turned and stayed out of it. But one of them turned to me and directly asked me whether I would want to see Trump impeached if it meant that Pence would become president, or more directly, who I thought was more dangerous and why. Now ideally I'd rather neither of them were president but rather than change the subject I started to respond directly, only to be interrupted the minute it was clear that my opinion differed from the man who had prompted me to join the discussion. Which was evident in...well...my very first sentence.

I let it go the first time. Let him finish his interjection. Then continued on with my point. The second time I started to say, "You actually just interrupted me again, would you mind letting me finish," but I didn't even get to say that because he interrupted that sentence too! At which point I pointed excitedly and said, "There! You just did it again!" To which he responded, "Okay, okay, no need to be a bully."

Let's examine...

Ignoring altogether the sexist implications of inviting a woman who isn't paying attention to you into a conversation by way of asking her opinion only to cut her off at every turn (the obvious conclusion being you just wanted her attention, you could give two shits what she has to say). Repeatedly interrupting someone is a way of asserting dominance. Talking over someone is a way of asserting dominance. I merely point out that those things are happening to me and suddenly I'm the bully?!

This happens to women all the time when they call out instances of sexism and misogyny. The situation gets flipped so that they are somehow in the wrong simply for calling out the wrong.

To use another personal example, now in reference to harassment: I was sitting in a bar (a lot of my stories start this way. Don't judge me. I like karaoke...) after coming from a jazz show so I was a bit dressed up and receiving a lot of attention. A man I didn't know walked in and was behaving in such a familiar way toward me that for a while I thought it was someone I knew and just couldn't place. I checked in with a friend who confirmed that he wasn't a regular (each of us was), and I was sure I didn't know him from any place else. Though there were other openings at the bar he chose the narrow space directly next to me to try and order a drink. Then apologized for getting too close by putting a hand on my shoulder than lingered too long. I told him it was fine but wasn't shy about pulling away from the touch. Next he tried to get the bartender's attention and - big surprise - his hand brushed against me "by mistake". He explained that he was so sorry by placing that hand on my knee. I gingerly picked it up like it was dirty tissue and dropped it into space by way of removing it. Oh no, did I just deliberately touch you without your permission? said his facial expression, and he started to apologize again. I saw the hand descending, its current trajectory set to land even higher on my thigh. This time I caught it.

"I understand that you're sorry," I said, "but I need for you to find a way to say that without touching me."

Just then the bartender arrived and this man launched into a whole sob story about how he was just here trying to order a drink and I was being so mean to him and treating him like a creep. Thankfully I knew the bartender and had witnesses to his behavior, but the point is that he tried to flip the situation into one where I was the problematic patron. All because I'd politely told him to keep his fucking hands off my legs.

See? I could have been mean if I'd wanted to...

Defending Male Behavior by Blaming Female Behavior

This form of himpathy amounts to men conceding that a behavior is problematic and unfair to women, then following it up with a "but". And the "but" is usually something that women do that provoke that behavior. It may even be followed up with, "and that's not an excuse, but..."

The thing about this it sort of is an excuse. It's a defense. It's a way of acknowledging the bad behavior but essentially saying that, as it's women who are motivating and causing it, that really it's women's fault and on us to change our behavior.

Examples:

Yeah, men do interrupt a lot, but only because women talk so much.

Yeah, it sucks that guys act creepy in bars, but women are so cold and really hard to approach so that's how we have to break the ice.

Yeah, it sucks that women get catcalled, but how do you think men feel being ignored on the street? We're people too.

Yeah, it sucks that the way rape is handled legally makes it so hard for women such that so much crime goes unreported. But on the other hand, women do lie. And that's a really big offense to be falsely accused of so...would you rather have innocent men in jail for rape?

My answer to that is no, obviously, but I also don't want to live in a world of guilty rapists on the streets unbeknownst to anyone but their victims, many of whom will not report their crimes because of the unlikelihood of them being successfully convicted.

I also don't want to live in a world where men are socialized to be dominant and women are socialized to be passive. I don't want to live in a world where men become agitated when they listen to women talk for "too long", even when that too long is 40% less than they talk themselves. I don't want every conversation I have to be peppered in with definitions and explanations that are needless, because a man didn't understand something I said, and rather than asking me a question he assumed I must be confused about something or other and this proceeded to explain. And I really, really don't want to live in a world where the best way for me to articulate an idea is to write an article or send a text or email because that's the only way I'm going to be able to get my point across without someone speaking over me, raising a finger to indicate that they want to speak over me, shaking their head aggressively to indicate that they disagree with me when I haven't even finished my damn sentence yet, or otherwise rudely interrupting me!

::takes deep breath::

I don't want to hear things like "she talks too much" and while I'm proud that people are calling out these behaviors and outright saying "let her speak", I look forward to a time when that isn't necessary.

I look forward to a time that when she speaks, she is heard.








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February 14, 2018

The Friend Zone



Defining the So-Called "Friend Zone" and Explaining How You Got There

To a guy, this is worse than a no parking zone, and way less fun than the auto zone. The friend zone is that terrible place a guy finds himself in when he has a thing for a girl who, by some magic, voodoo, or permanent panky blindness can only see him as a friend. Whether or not she'll outright admit it, there is always a reason that you're in the friend zone, and rarely ever is it because you're just too good a friend to risk it.

It is worth noting - and we'll get into it in a little bit - that the entire concept of a "friend zone" is an entitled idea, and both men and women are guilty of subscribing to it. Often the person who feels they have been friend zoned has never engaged in any sort of romantic activity with the person they fancy, and has never been given even the briefest flashing of green lights of interest from that person. Basically, the person in question never gave any impression of romantic interest, and yet the "friend zoned" person feels deprived of a romantic relationship with them as though it were a foregone conclusion from the start.

Nine times out of ten...it was not.

But just in case you believe you are that exceptional one time...

Here are the top five reasons why you're stuck in the friend zone


5. You Moved Too Slow 

Back in the day, dating was clear cut and practically came with an instruction manual. Nowadays the lines are blurred. But if there's one thing that most women still agree upon, it's that when you're special to a guy he lets you know. He goes out of his way to make the moves necessary to get you on the phone, on that date, in that relationship, etc.

Because of the seemingly ambiguous state of dating, a lot of men don't realize that women still have expectations. They'll take you out on a nice date, not call for a week and a half, text you: hey, what are you up to? at 9:30 PM on a Saturday and genuinely think they're still in the game.

Here's the thing: While down the line it definitely does take two, women still want to be courted in the preliminary stages of dating, and that courtship is your [read: the man's] responsibility.

Now before you start trying to take my feminist card - True, women's lib happened. But so did He's Just Not That Into You. So did countless blogs advising women to stay away from men who seem wishy washy in their interests. If you Google "hot and cold" right now you'll see Katy Perry lyrics and lots of self help articles warning women that they're not that special that they're provoking this crazy behavior. That their situation isn't unique, that he's not too busy, he's not too hurt from his ex, and he's not afraid of moving too fast. Basically, that if he isn't acting like he's crazy about you it's because he's not, and they should move on.

So we do!

You may think that you're just "getting to know each other as friends first" or "playing it cool", but if you fail to make it clear that you're after something more she'll assume you're not, and nobody likes to be the last minute Saturday night date that's just cool enough to pass time with.

So yeah, if you move too slowly or fail to make your intentions clear, she'll likely be onto the next. Especially if the next guy she meets knows how to use his thumbs and plan that second date while you're too busy playing it cool.

4. You Told Her You Weren't Looking For A Relationship

To your credit, maybe you knew you weren't looking for a relationship "right now," so when you met her you didn't ask her out on date as it would have been a waste of her time. ::cheers:: Good for you! You flirted with her anyway though, to let her know that you liked her, and were pleasantly surprised when she flirted back. 

Maybe she asked you about it too, just to make sure she didn't have the wrong impression. And to your credit, you didn't lead her on. You told her that you weren't looking for a relationship right now, but that you found her attractive. After hanging out a few times you thought you guys might enter into that kind of hot Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake thing. Except...it quickly became apparent that you guys only hangout. Even if you flirt. Even if she reciprocates. The light never turns green.

Yeah, about that...

Not everyone wants to hookup. That just isn't everyone's style. It doesn't matter how cute you are, or how funny you are. Some people have a clear idea of what they want for their lives, or in a less broad sense, a clear idea of they kind of physical intimacy they want to experience, and they aren't going to settle for less.

Also, it's worth noting that the term "casual" means different things to different people. In a healthy friends with benefits situation, both parties are clear about the terms, if you will, and neither party wants or expects more than that. Keeping things in a casual place with someone who does want more is not healthy. It's not even really casual. It's more like one person allowing the other to string them along, and most self respecting women would rather file you away in the friend drawer than allow themselves to be treated that way.

Which brings me to number three...

3. You Tried To Bait and Switch 

Like the Friends with Benefits guy, you, you sly fox you, did know that you weren't looking for a relationship. But you asked this girl out anyway. You wined her. You dined her. Went on multiple dates, and you probably alluded to the future with a bunch of ifs and maybes. You said things like, "if we ever end up in a relationship," or the even more devious, "my mom would love you, maybe you'll meet her someday." Unlike the person who tries to establish casual territory upfront, you had no qualms about leading this woman on.

There you were, playing the dating game. You were all heavy pursuit and then you hit your date limit. It varies, some people have a three date limit, for others it's a three month limit, but all short term people - by this I just mean people who know they aren't looking for relationship longevity - have a limit. That moment where they realize that if they don't retreat now, they'll find themselves in a relationship that they aren't ready for.

So okay, you hit your limit, you retreated, and the pursuit ended. Maybe you did it gradually by scheduling dates in a less formal way, asking if she just wanted to "hang out" aiming to tone down the romance. Or maybe you did it abruptly, going from dinner invites two to three times a week to one Netflix and chill a week...maybe...if work isn't too crazy. Then maybe you said something to plant that seed of non-commitment in her mind, like making a remark about a dating site you're still on, or asking her what her ideal partner would be like to imply that you're both still on the market and actively shopping.

You may have thought that you had such a great time during the so-called courtship that she'd want to keep seeing you in a casual way, only to find that she isn't returning your calls, takes forever to answer a text just to say lol, and that she's never available anymore. And then boom - she tells you - she's seeing someone else, and honey, it's getting serious.

And can you blame her? You tried to pull a fast one. If you were after casual, you should have said so. True, if you had you may have never gotten past the first date and gotten friend zoned anyway. And let's be honest, if she feels like she's been manipulated, you're probably lucky to be in the friend zone rather than straight up deleted from her contacts.

2. You're Not Boyfriend Material 

It's a little hard to hear, but sometimes you end up in the friend zone because you just aren't relationship material. This means different things to different people. For some it means that you still live with your parents. Others don't respond so favorably to the term "fun-employed." The specifics vary.

I met several guys when I was single who, despite my hopes, I immediately realized I could never get serious with. There was nothing wrong with any of them. We're talking super smart guys who made me laugh, who made me feel a little fuzzy when they laughed because they had amazing smiles and then ooh, I realized, broad shoulders and a body to match. Good jobs. Stable living situations. No kids (sorry guys, I'm entitled to my criteria).

But then maybe they liked to plan dates at the last minute and it gave me anxiety, or they were so busy with work that we only went out once a week and barely spoke in between, or they chatted me up just fine but it turned out they weren't interested in anything that I actually had to say. Maybe I noticed that they always wanted to meet in their hangout spots but never came to mine, or cancelled too many times at the last minute, or kept me waiting too long, too often. Maybe they casually told me that they put God first in their life, and the only place I've ever put God is in a philosophy paper arguing against the existence of one. I'm not claiming to spill the tea when it comes to what amounts to relationship material. My point is that the criteria is different for every person, and for her you just didn't meet it.

Women have standards. Sometimes falling short of boyfriend material can mean that you become the friend with benefits. The why not, this is fun...for now. Sometimes. But other times the woman you're interested in ends up dating someone else who does meet all of her criteria. Landing you irrevocably in the friend zone.

1. She's Just Not Attracted To You 

This one sucks, I get it, but women know what they like and what they don't like. Just like men do. If we're into you we can usually tell within the first three minutes. And if we're not...well...same.

A lot of men have the idea that every woman is an option for every man, and all he has to do is say the right things, push the right buttons, take her to the right restaurant and poof he'll end up with this woman. This is a highly reductive mindset that fails to see women as the individuals that they are, and take things into account like attraction, chemistry, synergy, like mindedness, shared values, etc. I mean, I really did enjoy the movie Hitch but it hurts me to see men take the Hitch approach and then get burned. They'll fixate on a woman who is giving off no signals of interest, devise the perfect plan, usually complete with an expensive date, a small gift, and maybe even a mix CD (or Spotify playlist? Showing my age...), they'll execute that plan, and then be crushed when this obviously disinterested woman doesn't fall under a magical spell and melt into his arms. And not just crushed sometimes. Angry. Resentful. And so on...

All the thoughtful ideas and sweet dinners are really amazing when there's already an attraction there, but if there isn't you can't bribe or essentially buy someone's attraction. It doesn't mean that you're doing anything wrong or that there's anything wrong with you, and similarly it doesn't mean you should necessarily do anything differently going forward save from taking women at face value and trusting that we don't need to be shown how we feel - we know. When a woman says she only sees you as a friend, that's exactly what it means. We can't always help who makes us tingle, and if we truly are good friends, then tingle town is likely the only box you don't tick for us. Still, it's a pretty important box. (No pun intended. Personally that one has always bothered me because boxes are rigid structures with corners that you can put into moving trucks and vaginas are more like expandable cylinders...I digress...)

A lack of attraction can also occur due to circumstance, but often once it's established, it sticks. Say we met you when we were already seriously involved with someone else. Under any other circumstances we might have found you attractive, but since we weren't looking at you that way from the outset, no attraction occurred. Now perhaps we've become available and you were thinking you'd throw your hat in the ring, only to learn that we didn't even realize you wore hats...or...you know what I'm saying...

My point is that while there are certainly things one can say or do to turn woman off, the number one reason you'll end up in the friend zone is that she isn't attracted to you romantically.

Sorry.

Exceptions To The Rules 

Sometimes, and by this I really do mean sometimes...as in most of the time this is not the case at all! But sometimes you can get out of the friend zone. If - and only if! - the woman you're attracted to actually feels the same way about you.

This is a serious rarity. It typically only happens in romantic comedies and...well...in my life, but my life is sometimes like a really messed up romantic comedy that would play on NBC after This Is Us since everyone is already confused about whether to laugh or cry.

Anyway...

Sometimes a woman who does see you as more than a friend will genuinely say nothing for fear of ruining the friendship. This probably isn't the case if you've known each other less than a month. This probably isn't the case if you've known each other for a while but see each other once a fiscal quarter. If on the other hand you are her best friend, or if you are in her close and well established friend group, this might be you.

Some people are extremely emotional, and spontaneous, and find the irrational uncertainty of diving headfirst into the unknown invigorating. I, at times, am one of those people. I am also a person who cannot go into a grocery store without a shopping list that takes longer to compile than time spend inside the actual grocery store. Even given my sometimes spontaneous nature, most of my major life choices are not made lightly. A lot of thought, and logic, and list making goes into them.

That said, often the logic goes a little something like this:

If I take this huge risk, and I say something, and they feel the same way, it could be magical and amazing and we could have everything. That is the best case scenario.

Or...they won't feel the same way. And I will be completely embarrassed for having exposed my feelings. I'll never be able to take it back. They'll never forget that I said it. Things will be awkward. We'll feel weird around one another. We won't hang out anymore, or talk as candidly, and then one day they'll marry someone else and everyone will get invited to the wedding except me because I said that stupid thing. Our friends will probably take their side, so boom, I won't have friends anymore, and everything will be ruined forever.

Or...they will feel the same way. And we'll date. But then we'll break up. And then I'll be heartbroken, or they'll be heartbroken, or we'll have a big blow out breakup and we'll hate each other. And all our friends will have to choose sides, and they'll probably choose their side, so boom, I won't have friends anymore, and everything will be ruined forever, and I'll have to live with knowing that everything would have been fine if I'd just left well enough alone. But it isn't. Because I'm an idiot and everything that goes wrong in the world is all my fault.

Obviously I'm assuming this hypothetical person shares my talent for hyperbole, but you get my point.

This is why if you're trying to figure out whether your "just friends" status is truly reflective of how the other person feels, it's important to weigh the significance of the friendship itself. If all that is at stake is a fun, new friendship that's lasted a few months, most people will take that risk. But when we're talking years, or we're talking about the core social support system of a person's life, not everyone will be brave enough to risk something so integral.

So yes, sometimes you may be stuck in the friend zone, not because the person you desire doesn't return your feelings, but because whatever relationship they already have with you is too important to risk.

More often than not, though, this isn't the case.

Usually the so-called friend zone is nothing more than you projecting your view of a relationship onto a person that has every right to feel differently about it. It isn't fair to be angry with someone, to be resentful, or to feel cheated out of an experience with someone that they themselves do not want.

Saying that you're "stuck" in the friend zone is literally like looking that person in the eye and telling them that they're cheating you out of sex and/or a relationship that you deserve to have with them. It's not so witty and cute when you put it that way. And honestly, if you really cared about that person you'd recognize that they don't amount to a missed opportunity.

They amount to a friend. And that's a pretty silly thing to be upset about.




 
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February 06, 2018

On Misogyny, Slut Shaming and Intersectional Feminism

Feminism Is For Everyone: On Misogyny Dividing Women, Intersectional Feminism, And A Complete Annihilation of Slut Shaming


It is difficult as a woman who is very aware of the role that misogyny plays in every day life to have had the disheartening experience of discussing its effects only to have these realities minimized and even denied by, not men, but other women. From being slut shamed by women, to older women warning that I should be so lucky to be catcalled, to a close friend insisting that rape culture does not exist and that I represent a victim mentality, I've experienced my fair share. 

In these instances, all of one's meticulously researched data, statistics and analysis of history and philosophy seem momentarily irrelevant, not because they are, but because most people think of feminism and misogyny in inaccurately limiting terms.

First, that to be a feminist and to be female is essentially one in the same, so that any view point being expressed by any woman is inherently feminist. This is incorrect. Feminism is not defined as a woman's point of view. Feminism is the pursuit of gender equality, named so for the historical status quo of patriarchal structure with the view of affording women the same political, economic and social autonomy as men. Particularly via the social avenue, feminism addresses prescribed patriarchal gender roles that unduly use sexism to justify limiting both genders, and seeks liberation for both. Feminist issues are not just women's issues, then. The pressure from society for young boys and men to suppress emotion and vulnerability - also known as hyper-masculinity - which can lead to emotional struggles and even result in a subconscious inability to connect with one's own emotions - this is an issue that affects men exclusively, and yet it is a feminist issue. Men can be feminists; woman can be anti-feminist. 

Second, people think of misogyny as a term that necessitates a sort of blanket consistency among all women in order to be rendered valid. There is an idea that for a man to be a misogynist, he must treat all women badly (or that he must treat only women badly); that for a structure or situation to consist of misogynistic ideologies it must affect all women equally, or even that women must be affected exclusively. This, however, is a fallacy, and is too often used to deny that misogyny and indeed, misogynists, exist at all, as the intentionally narrow resulting criteria for misogyny and misogynists alike is nearly impossible to identify, let alone to meet. A man need not hate all women to be a misogynist. A man can love his mother, his sister, his girlfriend, his daughter, and still hold and act in accordance with misogynistic values, whether deeply and personally held or merely acquired due to one's environment and never questioned. Similarly, a society or structure can be inherently misogynistic without every woman affected being affected in exactly the same way, at the same intensity, or with the same consistency. In fact, a more comprehensible definition of misogyny provided by Kate Manne in Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny in which it serves as an enforcer of patriarchal norms reveals that, logically, all women wouldn't be affected equally by misogyny. Women who conformed to these norms, these roles, would be championed and experience reward, whereas women who did not conform to or, worse still, challenged these norms would experience negative consequences. 

A woman, for example, who has chosen the role of housewife/mother and has done so gleefully is unlikely to ever experience misogynistic backlash (as she is technically already in the place where it would endeavor to put her), whereas a woman who has chosen to pursue career and decided against having children is more likely to experience that backlash. If the housewife/mother were to go further and, not only choose this life for herself, but to advocate for other women to return to their rightful place in the home, she is likely not to be merely left alone (read: to be exempt from attempted or actualized public shame/humiliation) but actively rewarded, celebrated and praised by men and women alike who have internalized patriarchal values, whereas were the career woman to encourage other women to abandon these archaic ideals in favor of creating their own paths, or go so far as to use words such as overthrow the patriarchy, it is extremely likely that this woman will experience misogynistic backlash from both men and women who support the status quo, and to a very intense degree often disproportionate in response to whatever "crime" such a woman is imagined to have committed.

This is not a coincidence. Misogyny isn't meant to facilitate gender war; it is meant to facilitate patriarchy, a societal structure in which men are the primary beneficiaries. Men do not benefit whatsoever from attacking women who are already compliant and acting in their expected roles. Women in these roles are already serving to benefit men as the roles themselves have been specifically tailored to do just that. However, when women - oh, say - start marching in pink hats and trying to send the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump to jail, which is not only to reject the limitations of their own prescribed gender roles but to also place limits (however just) on male privileges and entitlements, misogyny acts to try and make those women compliant, and part of that is not only punishing the "bad" women, but rewarding the "good" women and encouraging them to punish the bad women too! Because nothing stunts a civil rights movement like a cat fight (please acknowledge my tongue in my cheek).

Thus, when women slut shame a woman who is conducting herself no differently than her male counterparts (whose behavior goes unmentioned, unchallenged, unshamed), when older women ask young women protesting street harassment to embrace and learn to be grateful for their own objectification, when one woman says that rape culture places a burden on women to keep themselves safe as though rape is a foregone conclusion if they do not, exonerating men of any preventative responsibility, and another woman argues that rape culture isn't real and she is oversensitive and playing the victim...

When some women appear to be standing on the side of male offenders, denying the claims, stories, experiences and logic of women who attempt to take a stand, it does not mean that misogyny does not exist. 

What it means is that misogyny is working. 

To expand on one of the issues mentioned earlier I'm going to explore the concept of slut shaming, from why it is a misogynistic agent of the patriarchy, to how it is used to attempt to control women's behavior. As with other forms of misogynistic backlash, not all women will experience slut shaming equally, and some not at all. Some of the inequality in experience is a result of other factors that contribute to inequality, such as race and class, but those I will discuss later. For now, I will focus strictly on misogyny and how it acts on women at its most simplistic, that being through reward and punishment. 

Slut Shaming

Slut shaming is a beautiful illustration of misogyny as it is understood to be an enforcer of patriarchal values. A woman's sexuality as something that she is scarcely connected to herself, but rather as a duty to one's husband, is a patriarchal value. Or, one could also say that the patriarchal value is the idea of a woman as a giver of sex, as opposed to a taker of sex. Note for a moment that sex itself is not under attack. When single women engage in too much sex with too many partners they are attacked, sure, but so are women who are not having enough sex within long term commitments and marriages when they are shamed for being frigid. If the goal were for women to abstain from sex altogether men would find themselves in a rather unfortunate predicament. A woman need not be abstinent to act inside her prescribed role. Rather, she needs to be a giver of sex when appropriate (and when she has too many partners it is clear that she is not just giving, but receiving and benefiting as well). And so sex is not so much about itself where slut shaming comes into play, but more about why the woman is having sex or for the benefit of whom when she chooses to engage sexually. Frankly the problem is in the choosing, insofar as her having a choice at all. 

A married woman could boast about all the ways she swings from the chandeliers in service to her husband. She could talk about the lingerie she acquires, the yoga classes she attends to be flexible for him, the kegal exercises she does while she presses the laundry to stay tight for him, the pornography she watches while she prepares dinner to keep things interesting for him. She can even refer to topics that are ordinarily taboo - like allowing him to go outside their marriage for his birthday (adultry), or giving him a threesome for their anniversary (homosexuality, though note for a moment that society doesn't seem to take the same offense to it when it's "girl on girl"), or purchasing that toy on that website that's supposed to increase sensation (kink) - and still as long as her primary motivation for even raunchier sexual behavior is to please her husband, she will be seen as going above and beyond to fulfill her wifely duties and thus will be praised by the patriarchy.

One particularly offensive men's rights organization, The Red Pill, berates single women in an interview for being sluts in one breath, but in the next advises women in relationships on how best to please their male partners by telling them that one of the biggest mistakes women make in relationships is thinking that sex is optional, when in fact, it is a responsibility (don't even get me started on the implications here regarding consent). She should make it a priority to have something new planned every time her man comes home (where she, of course, has been waiting). To fail to do this is literally to fail at her job. Ironic - right? - that a men's rights group advocating for a return to traditional (read: patriarchal) values would essentially encourage women to work hard to become the best prostitutes they can be. Except that it isn't ironic when this hard work is done for the purpose of male consumption. These "good" women, in this example, are not taking sex, they are giving it. Married women, by virtue of being married, cannot be sluts (well...as long as they don't cheat).

The "slut" problem doesn't arise from having sex. It arises when women get crazy ideas like thinking that sex has anything to do with their personal desires. It arises when women have sex "like men", that is, to approach sex with agency and with an expectation, nay, a goal, of personal pleasure.

Women become "sluts" in the eyes of the patriarchy when they appear to take sexual pleasure, rather than give sexual pleasure. A shallow investigation of this theory does not immediately reveal why this mere change in perspective might prove less advantageous than women merely having sex out of obligation. Wouldn't this mean they would be more enthusiastic? Wouldn't mutually beneficial sex be more pleasurable for all parties involved? Wouldn't this make women more likely to invest in high priced lingerie and less likely to suffer from spontaneous headaches?

But upon closer inspection, women having sex for themselves rather than having sex for the pleasure of others (in this analysis, for their husbands) poses a tremendous threat to patriarchal order in so far as men being the primary beneficiaries of sex. 

First, if a woman's only reason for having sex is to please her husband, then she will only have sex with her husband. This means that men get to control a woman's sex life long before she has one to speak of. Before she is even of age, before she has had her first kiss, before she has even found love, before she has even gotten married, it has already been predetermined for her that her body is not her own - her body belongs to her future husband, whomever he might be. When sex is a woman's duty to her husband her body is essentially relegated to property whether or not she is married. When women have sex for their own pleasure, however, they will not regard their bodies as the property of their future husbands, much like men do not regard their bodies as the property of their future wives. In one fell swoop women have gone from the property of men to autonomous human beings.

Thus, the benefit of women as property is taken away from men, and women regard themselves as autonomous, a tremendous threat to patriarchal authority.

Second, if a woman has no personal reason for engaging in sexual behavior but to serve her husband, and if sexual availability to one's husband is a marital responsibility, then logically she will not have sex unless or until she has a husband, and even then will only have sex when the husband desires it, and similarly will always have sex when the husband desires it. However having sex for her own pleasure means that she need not wait to have a husband before having sex, meaning that "deflowering" this woman - the assurance that one is marrying a virgin (a woman who has never had sex before and has no one to compare him to) - is no longer an assurance. It also means women can desire sex at times that a man is not necessarily willing or able to perform, such that he may experience a feeling of not satisfying her, or worse, not adequately satisfying his role as a husband (or partner, in the case that marriage is not a factor in the equation), or worse still must fear the possibility that she may go outside of an established relationship to have her sexual needs met. It also means that men can be refused, even inside a committed relationship and a marriage; if sex is not a woman's marital obligation then spousal rape is not impossible (though it was not illegal to rape one's wife in the United States until 1970, and not in all 50 states until 1993, as per ironically prevailing views based on English common law that a "husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this kind to her husband which she cannot retract").

Thus, the benefit of having sex with a woman who has only ever had sex with him, who can only have sex when he desires, who must always have sex when he desires, who can be forced if she refuses and can take no action against him should he choose to force himself on her is taken away. Her autonomy is strengthened, his authority is weakened, and further he can be punished if he attempts to regain his authority by violating her autonomy.

Third, it means that men can be bad at sex. When a woman's job is to endure sex and no desire or pleasure is expected on her part, this isn't a possibility. For it to be a possibility, she would have to have an opinion of sex, and her job is to serve, not have opinions. The experience of sex belongs to the man alone, and she is merely there to facilitate his experience. This changes when women exercise sexual agency. Whereas before only the man's needs were being considered, now (ideally) both their needs are being considered and, if they are not, she can have an opinion about it. The nature of sex fundamentally changes from one in which he is taking something from her to one in which they are both giving to each other and receiving from each other, so that they can both be judged on their ability please, rather than the woman alone being judged on her attractiveness, her desirability and her performance in bed. The measure of the success of the event itself is determined by both their satisfaction, not his alone. When women can experience arousal, and desire, and pleasure, and (god forbid) orgasms, suddenly men can be inadequate, and that's quite the power shift. So much so that FGM - Female Genital Mutilation - still prevails in all parts of the world (even in developed nations where we think we're "woke") as a last ditch attempt to remove a woman's capacity to participate as an equal in sex and restore the one-sided experience. 

Thus, the benefit of selfishly enjoying sex without ever considering the pleasure of a woman is taken away, as well as the benefit of never considering how one measures up in a woman's eyes and mind regarding one's own desirability as a sexual being or adequacy as a lover. Note the tendency for even the most unattractive of men to nevertheless hold women to ridiculously stringent standards of beauty and to find no hypocrisy in this tendency. This is based on the sexual objectification of women, a patriarchal practice to which men are not subjected (in the same way or to the same degree). When women possess and act in accordance with sexual agency, however, it subjects men to the same scrutiny (being judged based on their appearance and bodily assets; their perceived ability to please) that, if sex is a marital duty, is relegated exclusively to women, and as such, emasculates men, if masculinity in this case is determined by a superiority to or power over women (and I argue that an ability to dominate women is still at the core of what is acknowledged as masculine identity).

Forth, it means that men can be rejected. Not just refused on occasion, but rejected altogether. If sex is a woman's duty to her husband, and a man is interested in a woman who is unwed, then he can marry her, and thus can have sex with her. If a man is interested in a woman who is wed, he cannot have sex with her, but he has not been rejected, she simply belongs to someone else. She is someone else's property, and there is a difference between not being able to purchase something because it has already been purchased by someone else, and not being able to purchase something because your credit card was declined. If a woman is in charge of her sexual experience then she is allowed to say "no". A woman's availability, then, does not ensure that she is available to him; her choice means that he can be rejected by a woman who may accept another man that same week, same day, or same hour. This sort of rejection is personal, and promotes male rivalry of a different sort than that of competing for money, power or influence, against (in a patriarchal society) other men. In this case "winning" is out of men's control as it is women who are presumably making the assessments and comparisons that could lead to potential rejection. Unlike not being able to have someone who is "owned" by someone else, this direct rejection calls one's adequacy and worthiness into question, as women are now in a decision making position exclusively held by men if women have no sexual agency. Further, if women can reject men, then men run the risk of not being able to have sex with any of the women they desire, or, not being able to have sex at all. 

Thus, as women gain the right to say "no", men lose their right to sex (or I should say, their "entitlement" to sex). With that they lose their entitlement to a spouse; they lose their entitlement to continue their family line via children.  

After the analysis of those four points, and I'm sure there are more to be found, it is clear that a sexually liberated woman is a threat to the fundamental structure on which the patriarchy rests. Sexually liberated women not only pose a potential threat to a man's sex life, but to his marital status, his ability to continue his family line, and, if he chooses to attempt to obtain any of the aforementioned benefits without her consent, his liberty. It changes the entire nature of sex from one in which he is the primary beneficiary to one where he is, at best, an equal participant, at worst, unable to participate at all.

(Note that these disaster situations in which men are rejected in every circumstance by every woman they will ever desire and will never marry and have children is unlikely to become a reality for most. In a true egalitarian society (and temporarily focusing exclusively on heterosexual relations), all things being equal (or in other words, racial and socioeconomic differences notwithstanding), men and women would likely have a similar experience regarding the pursuit of sex, partnership and reproduction. That is that each would only find themselves engaged with members of the opposite sex that returned their interest, and, due to the preferences of both genders, this would result in a rather familiar bell curve effect where most people have a moderate amount of options, few have disproportionately more options than most, and few have disproportionately less. This is not radical. However, this may feel very extreme, limiting, and like a slippery slope to imposed abstinence when the precedent and prevailing expectation is male sexual entitlement.)

The notion of female sexual agency and the consequences (as seen through misogynistic colored lenses) thereof may seem very extreme, but in fact, are not at all, and only seem that way because sex as a male dominated arena is the prevailing norm. Slut shaming, then, is an attempt to right this unfavorable predicament and reestablish (or, as I would argue that things are by no means equal at the present, maintain) sex as a male dominated activity in which men are the primary beneficiaries. 

Slut Shaming as a Direct Tool to Limit Women's Behavior

Birth Control / Abortion (Oh, and in case you didn't guess, #IStandWithPPH)

Most of the arguments against birth control and abortion include an element of slut shaming. Only "bad" women require the government to pay for their promiscuity; only "bad" women murder their own babies.

Users of birth control and pro-choice advocates are usually depicted as being single women who are sexually active with multiple partners simultaneously. In fact, women, both married and single use birth control. Birth control is given to women and girls for reasons other than preventing pregnancy such as regulating inconsistent menstrual cycles, alleviating debilitating cramps and assisting with the management of blood-related conditions such as anemia (that is to say that these factors can and do occur well before the legal age of consent in which case, while they might be, the assumption is that these girls are not sexually active). Men are also advocates of birth control access and a woman's right to terminate pregnancy. Abortion is used to address concerns other than want - though that is not to say that whether one wants to grow an eventual human being inside them for nine months and care for it for the rest of their days is a frivolous matter - including, but not limited to, congenital birth defects in situations where a child would not survive after birth, still births, pregnancies resulting from rape (or in other words, where a woman did not choose to risk becoming pregnant), and situations where the life of the mother (who already exists by the way, and can actually die) is at risk. Still, the primary depiction of women who seek birth control and abortion rights (it is almost never mentioned that men, too, are advocates), neatly woven into the right to life argument, is that these women are selfish and promiscuous.

Let's assume for a moment that the right to life argument is bullshit, and I argue that it is, beyond the logical and philosophical reasoning that to compare a fetus to a child is to compare an acorn to a tree, and one would hardly accuse a squirrel of deforestation. The interesting thing about the right to life argument - in the United States, in this case - is that it is the holier-than-thou platform on which the conservative right stand. Their claim to the moral high ground. And yet, this is the same group that cuts funding for public schools, for healthcare, for government assistance for poor families. That is to say that this group argues tirelessly for the rights of unborn children, yet doesn't seem too concerned with what will become of these children once they are actually born. Additionally, surely if the lives of people who haven't been born and, in hypothetical arguments have yet to be conceived, are so important, then the lives of human beings who have been born, who are thinking, and feeling, and capable of pain, would be equally if not (logically) much more important than a hypothetical life. And yet as seen in cases where it is prohibited to perform an abortion even to save the woman's life, even in cases of congenital abnormalities and still births in which the child would not survive anyway, it is clear that "life" is not the thing that is being protected here. 

So what is being protected, then? Who benefits from women not having access to birth control/abortion?

Certainly not women.

You might start to argue children, but remember, these children don't exist yet. They're hypothetical. They're potential life. And regarding real children (read: that can exist on their own; do not require a parasitic attachment to a host), arguably if a parent (or parents) is/are already struggling to feed one child, then birth control/abortion would benefit the existing child in that family much more than the introduction of another sibling and less resources to go around. So children - who exist! - do not benefit from the denial of reproductive rights. 

That leaves men. Do men benefit from women not having reproductive rights?

Let's see...if women cannot prevent pregnancy and, in the case of unwanted pregnancy, cannot terminate, then they are forced to have babies should they happen to become pregnant. Obvious, no? Maybe, but upon further inspection it would mean where having sex is concerned, her only options (ignoring for a moment the ability to obtain an illegal abortion) would be abstinence or motherhood.

The resulting messaging is:

Don't want to be a mother? - Then don't have sex.

Want to have sex? - Then be prepared to be a mother.

Single motherhood too difficult? - Well that's what husbands are for, silly.

And suddenly the attempt to limit or deny access to reproductive rights is revealed clearly as a component of misogyny with the intent to punish and effectively control women, eventually preventing them from exercising sexual agency.

Clothing

We do not teach women that they have the right to dress as they like, express themselves via their clothing, and the right to be respected regardless of what they are wearing. Instead we teach women that their right to wear what they like, to express themselves with their clothing and to be respected is limited, depending on what they choose to wear. And not just respected in terms of being "taken seriously." We teach women that if they wear the wrong thing, they don't just lose their right to be taken seriously, but also their right to be left alone; their right to not be sexually harassed, to not be sexually assaulted, to not be raped, to not be killed.

While in places like the United States we see the issue of clothing reflected in labeling some outfits "slutty" and others not, and responding to claims of sexual harassment and assault by asking women what they were wearing (as though this justifies the behavior of the men involved), in other parts of the world we see women made to cover themselves from head to toe. Regardless of culture though, we overwhelmingly see a trend where women's clothes are policed, and even in cultures where women can technically wear what they want, it is still subtly policed through socialization, the threat of physical violence, and a myriad of micro-aggressions, namely slut shaming.

The benefit to men is not immediately apparent here. If men are attracted to women then why would they imposed limitations that essentially hide away the female form?

It comes down to control, and it breaks down into two categories:

1 - The ability of men to control women

2 - The ability of men to control themselves

1 - The policing of women's clothing is not a result of men not finding women attractive or a distaste of the female form. Patriarchal values demand that women dress a certain way because it enables men to be in control of women. A woman's attractiveness, her body, her face, is a form of sexual currency. A woman covered from head to toe is hidden from the eyes of other men, yes, but more importantly if her attractive features cannot be seen then she wields no sexual power; she has no sexual currency and cannot exercise sexual agency. Were she allowed to dress however she wanted she would be able to possess that sexual currency, and could use that currency to control her sexual experience. Likewise when a woman is dressed in a way that is very revealing, labeling such dress as "slutty" is an attempt to remove her sexual currency and agency. By stereotyping a short skirt, for example, in such a way that by wearing one, one must be a prostitute, or a slut whose only distinction from a prostitute is in not being paid (note that there is no stereotype that says that men who are outside without shirts on - even if they aren't running - are probably prostitutes or morally loose) this literally transfers the sexual currency back to the man to be spent on the woman. Her sexuality is reduced to something to be pursued at his will; something that does not inherently belong to her.

2 - If women are allowed to dress however they want, then men might find themselves attracted to them in situations that are inconvenient. At school, in the workplace, at the gym, or in general if the woman in question is unavailable or simply unreceptive to his interest. This inconvenient desire, or desire that cannot be acted upon, could be terribly uncomfortable for men, and although this would only require them to control themselves, it could be perceived to them as being controlled by women as it was women who caused that desire and, subsequently, that discomfort. Again, notice that men's bodies are neither policed nor regarded in such a way that revealing physical features that het, cis women agree are universally attractive speak some deeper truth about the man's sexual availability. Notice that a woman's ability to experience public arousal - let alone to control public arousal - is of no concern to the patriarchy, and a woman's discomfort when her arousal is not addressed is not acknowledged by the patriarchy as an actual occurrence, let alone a problem, so sweaty, half-naked men can walk the streets carrying stereos, repairing sidewalks, preparing for a 5k all they want and are not harassed, labeled, or criticized (well, as long as they too are het and cis, but that's another article). The patriarchy is very concerned about male arousal being inconvenient, however, and demands that women are to only be visually stimulating in the specific situations in which that arousal is likely to be satiated.

While slut shaming is a part of rape culture, with regards to women's clothing it is less about violence and more about limiting a woman's sexual autonomy and agency. Women are not called "targets" if they wear high heels and short skirts, or told that they look "victimy", but instead are called "sluts". And slut here is not defined as a woman who gets attacked, or raped or killed; the definition of slut here is intended to mean a woman who is indiscriminately sexually available.

Thus, regarding slut shaming and policing women's clothing (and male comedians have trotted out this particular brand of humor before à la if you're not a prostitute then don't dress like one, ironically in one notable Chris Rock moment comparing such clothing to the uniform of a police officer) women are taught that if they are going to appear sexy then they better be ready to have sex. Slut shaming via clothing teaches people that a woman is responsible for satisfying a man's sexual desire if she dares to provoke it, thus attempting to limit her sexual autonomy, her agency, her sexual expression, and the ability to have a sexual experience that she is in charge of. 

Rejecting unwanted advances

Regarding the patriarchy, it makes perfect sense that there would be backlash to rejecting men's advances, and there are far more drastic and direct reactions to this rejection (such as throwing acid in women's faces, setting them on fire, etc. though that is an entirely different article...) than slut shaming, though it is a bit odd that slut shaming would be part of this backlash. If "sluts" are promiscuous, and to be promiscuous is to engage in indiscriminate sex, and a woman has rejected the advances of a man, then logically it makes no sense to call her a slut.

Although we already know that, logically, it makes no sense to call any woman - or any person, for that matter - a slut. So let's examine...

When men do attack women violently with specific intent to disfigure and/or kill them after a rejection (so okay, I guess I am going to talk about it a little bit...) it is done not only out of revenge, but in an aim to remove the woman's physical attractiveness as it is seen as a key component of her sexual agency (or, as we put it when discussing clothing, her sexual currency). In other words, a woman cannot call the shots in her own sex life if she has no sex life (or life, period) to speak of due to the absence of any interested parties. And thus, power is restored, and men are back in a position of deciding and controlling.

In the case of slut shaming, this is meant in a similar spirit. The man is attempting to remove the woman's sexual agency going forward as a consequence for her refusal to engage him. If he is successful in shaming the woman, making her feel bad, or insecure, or worried, or guilty about participating in activities of a sexual nature, he will have gotten revenge for having been rejected and put a limit on her ability to spend her sexual currency, thereby removing her sexual agency.

Why Only Women Are Sluts / The Logic of Slut Shaming

Slut shaming is reflective of a double standard, as women are slut shamed, but men who are the mirror images of their disgraced female counterparts are celebrated for the exact same behaviors. The logic employed by those who attempt to defend this double standard goes a little something like this:

It is easy for a woman to be a slut, because men are driven by sex and usually willing to have sex with women rather indiscriminately. (Sidebar: By definition are we saying it's easy for women to be sluts because men are sluts?) Thus, when a woman has sex with many men she hasn't accomplished anything difficult. Rather, by abstaining from all of the offers she will receive over her lifetime she will have accomplished something difficult.

On the other hand, it is difficult for a man to have sex with many women, because women are not driven by sex and are not usually willing to have sex with men indiscriminately, or in other words, are not as readily sexually available as men. Therefore a man who has had many sexual partners has accomplished something difficult.

This reasoning is, frankly, asinine. Let's examine...

First, the logic is based on sexism or, the (false) argument that a difference in how the genders are treated within a patriarchal structure is justified by a natural or biological difference between the genders. The argument here is that men are driven by sexual desire whereas women are not.

In fact, the patriarchal structure has created a situation in which the sexual desires that drive women are ignored by men, where the women who also ignore these desires are rewarded, and the women who choose not to ignore them are punished.

First, take the argument that it is "easy" to be a slut. If women were not driven by sex then sluttiness would be so rare that there probably wouldn't be a word for such an uncommon occurrence. It would require women to consistently pursue something they did not actively want, and logically, this is not how humans behave. Of course one could argue that a woman's desire is inconsequential because men are driven by sex, so logically men would be pursuing women, but this still does not account for sluttiness because in a society where women have enough sexual autonomy to become sluts, they would also have enough autonomy to only participate in desired experiences. Thus, in a world of sexually indifferent women, the availability of hyper-sexual men would be inconsequential. To demonstrate this, let's talk about the availability of trucks...

Trucks are currently moving down highways at extraordinary speeds. Technically it would be very easy, if one ran out onto a highway at the right moment, to get hit by a truck. One wouldn't have to work very hard to accomplish this as the trucks are already on the highway, already moving at these speeds. And yet we do not see people running into oncoming traffic deliberately getting hit by trucks simply because it's easy. Why? Simple - overwhelmingly, people don't want to get hit by trucks! And even when people intentionally get hit by trucks (suicide), we haven't invented a word specifically to describe a person who has deliberately run in front of a truck, regardless of how easy it would be to do so. The rarity of the occurrence is most likely to blame for the absence of such a word, and the availability of fast trucks does not seem to have increased people's desire to jump in front of them. That is to say that people don't just do things because they're easy; people do things because they want to. So the fact that women engage in sex with multiple partners isn't indicative of it being easy but of the fact that they want to, and presumably they want to often enough for a word to have been invented to describe that specific manifestation of desire. Thus, the premise that it is easy for a woman to be a slut inherently contradicts the premise that women are not sex driven. If women weren't, the behavior required to become a slut simply wouldn't occur, regardless of difficulty, and we wouldn't even have a word for it.

Assuming then, that both men and women are sex driven, it becomes a question of sexual availability. I don't argue that heterosexual women are less sexually available than heterosexual men, but I do vehemently disagree with the argument that this difference is being informed by anything other than the patriarchy itself. In a world in which women are taught to put the needs of others before their own and male sexual entitlement in the bedroom is pervasive, in which most pornography caters to male desire and female objectification and is, thanks to the internet, increasingly becoming the first place that both genders learn about what sex is, in which the orgasm gap between men and women is 1.25:1 respectively and increases during casual sex to 3:1, in which women are expected to give oral sex regularly (again, thanks to "sex" as depicted by porn) and are simultaneously expected to perceive the rarity of receiving oral sex as normal, it is no surprise that women are not as sexually available as men. Not because we don't desire sex and are not biologically driven by it, but because in a patriarchal society - or in a post-patriarchal society where the system is not completely dismantled and many patriarchal ideals still prevail - where men are the primary beneficiaries of sex, women understand that the sexual experience isn't as beneficial to us because we are women, no matter how much we might desire it. Add to this the safety concerns women face in a society that associates sex with domination and humiliation and it is clear why the sexual desire of heterosexual women is reflected more in the successful marketing of erotic literature and high priced "personal massagers" than in sexual availability.

In other words, men, it is more difficult for you to come across sexually available women because of patriarchy. Outside of that structure, in the world of effective condoms and birth control, there is no reason for women to be anti-sex. Sure, not all women you want will want you back, but this is true for women too, and such is life. If you don't believe me go ahead and Google all the feminist articles written by women who want to have casual sex, but don't due to safety concerns, the orgasm gap and the oral sex gap. Or, we can go ahead and examine a society in which patriarchy isn't an issue, at least not where sex is concerned. Let's talk about lesbians. Let's talk, specifically, about the fact that they're having sex earlier, having sex more, and straight up (hehe, get it?) having better sex than women in heterosexual relationships.

Before anyone tries to argue that this is a myth, I am a bisexual woman who has been with both genders and I'm here to shout it from the rooftops - women in same sex relationships are having more satisfying sex. Period. No question about it. When you remove men from the equation altogether, not only do women end up having more sex, but better sex. Sex that is reciprocal, considerate, and free of the many effects of pornography largely responsible for ruining the modern het woman's sex life. In same-sex relationships between women there is no such thing as the three date rule, or the five date rule, or the concept of "giving it up" at all, let alone too soon. There is the one date rule, but if you don't know the joke about what a lesbian brings on a first date, I'm not going to be the one to tell you.

Point is, the idea that women are not sex driven is a cornerstone of patriarchal bullshit. Women are absolutely sex driven. Women are just not encouraged to be sex driven within a patriarchal society. And while the claim that being a so-called "slut" is supposedly easy for a woman to do, given the way that women who undeservingly earn the title are treated within such a structure, I would argue that society does not make it easy for women to be sluts at all.

But while we're on the topic of ease and difficulty...

True, we are a society that celebrates rarity. We celebrate diamonds, we celebrate the accomplishments of people who have done things that most have not. But we don't necessarily base those celebrations on difficulty. We celebrate the Olympics, but we also have a book of word records in which we celebrate trivial things like longest toenails. Further, while we may indeed celebrate difficult achievements, we do not punish easy ones. This isn't typical behavior. It is easier to microwave leftovers than to reheat them on the stove and yet high school students do not bully each other to the point of suicide for eating microwaved leftovers. It is easier to drive, or take cabs, or take the subway than to walk everywhere, and yet the subway is not a dirty place (well...actually it is but not like, morally, just...physically...) and there is no derogatory word for people who use modern forms of transportation. Truth be told humans are not known for our deep love of all things difficult. Rather, we tend to like to make things as easy and comfortable for ourselves as possible. Hence technology. Hence the phrase work smarter, not harder. Name another social occurrence in which a demographic is stigmatized at the same magnitude for doing something that's easy. Seriously. Email it to me. Tweet it at me. Leave it on my Facebook wall, I dare you.

We don't punish women for having many sexual partners because it's easy. Please. We punish women for having many sexual partners because it is an expression of sexual agency and therefore a threat to patriarchal structure. We deny that women have sex drives comparable to a man's to justify the denial of their sexual agency. For a man to have slept with many initially unwilling female partners (and the subtext in this conversation is that the man is a playboy of sorts due to his ability to manipulate women into sex, never for his uncanny ability to find equally enthusiastic partners who require no coercion), however, is a powerful expression of patriarchy, as it simultaneously promotes the sexual objectification of women and male dominance.

Women are not naturally indifferent to sex and men, while they may indeed be sex driven, are no more sex driven than women. This phenomenon only appears to be the case within a patriarchal structure wherein men and women are behaving in accordance with their prescribed gender roles. The male libido is given priority whereas the female libido's existence is denied. Viagra is covered by health insurance with no questions asked and Planned Parenthood is under attack. And in the midst of all this denial girls no older than three have their clitorises brutally cut off despite the fact that it leads to infection, life long medical complications during urination, menstruation, pregnancy, and death. All to control all of these biological urges that we women supposedly do not naturally possess.

Do you know the derogatory slang word for people who don't breathe? How about the slur for people who don't blink? It is not necessary to create hate language for things that do not occur, and it is natural to breathe, and natural to blink, so no hate words exist for those who would defect - why would they?

The way women are expected to behave inside a patriarchal structure is not a natural occurrence. If it were, there would be no word, or law, or brutal fucking surgery necessary to facilitate that behavior, it would just happen, the same way breathing, and blinking, and fucking just happens.

The double standard isn't logical and it isn't based in some deeper biological truth. It's misogyny. Period.

Rape

There is an idea that it is common for women to knowingly and intentionally accuse men of rapes that did not occur. This is not the case. In fact, an estimated 2 to 10 percent of sexual assaults are falsely reported, and even then a significant portion of those "false reports" are not such in that they are fabrications but because, while an offense did occur, the offense did not technically meet the legal definition of rape. Conversely, a majority of sexual assaults, an estimated 63 percent are never reported.

Slut shaming is one of a myriad of tools used not only to silence and discourage victims from reporting sexual assault, but also to discredit these victims in the event that the crime is reported. An example of how this is done is called going to the character of the woman. This particular line of questioning was made illegal in every state in the 1980's, and consists of questions that have nothing to do with the sexual assault at hand but rather unrelated questions about the person's previous sexual history (e.g.: whether they have had a one night stand; how many sexual partners they have had) with the aim of discrediting the allegations based on the "likelihood" that they would have had sex voluntarily.

Understand that slut shaming is not about promiscuity or even sex, though it pretends to be on its face, and comes up with all types of reasons why it is natural, expected, and in the best interest of women despite the fact that it leads to depression, suicide, violence, permanent injury, disfigurement, and homicide at the hands of - big surprise here - men.

Sidebar:

"Women worldwide ages 15 through 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined," - Nicholas D. Kirstof (Solnit 2008).

"...about sixty-six thousand women are killed by men annually, worldwide.... Most of them are killed by lovers, husbands, former partners, seeking the most extreme form of containment, the ultimate form of erasure, silencing, disappearance" (Solnit 2008).

"Spouses are also the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the United States (Solnit 2008).

Notice that when manipulation fails, violence, murder, is the last resort used to achieve - what? Abstinence.

No. - Control! It is about control. And thus it is a method that is only employed when dealing with certain women, because why would it be necessary to use on a woman who already is, or appears to be, under control?

Women Who Slut Shame

Slut shaming makes what it means to be a "good" woman versus a "bad" woman very clear. As a misogynistic agent, women are incentivized via shame to avoid becoming sluts. Women who accept their prescribed role of giver of sexual pleasure are not attacked with the label of slut nor the social elements of slut shaming. Women who shame women who are not acting within their prescribed roles and instead behaving as takers of sexual pleasure are further elevated and thus incentivized to not only keep up their "good" behavior but to continue to punish the women who behave badly.

I suspect, and have long suspected since my first encounter of slut shaming back when I was in my teens, that a large part of it is similar to the aversion that women tend to have toward women in powerful positions. One would assume that women would want to see female role models via women in traditionally male dominated spheres, but in fact women are just as hostile toward female authority figures as men are, judge them just as harshly in comparison to their male counterparts, and their opinions are often informed by a different set of expectations than those that they have of men (being "warm" for example, in student surveys where female professors are described as being "cold", where there is no expectation of such warmth when rating male professors). One hypothesis to account for this lack of solidarity is that women who have not trespassed into male dominated territories have done so due to an understanding that their success in said territories were unlikely, and rather than accepting the blow to the ego, insecurity or other unpleasant feelings about one's self that would come from acknowledging another woman's unlikely success if nothing is wrong with her, it is easier to claim that something is wrong with the successful woman, thus alleviating personal responsibility on behalf of the woman who is not comparably successful.

In the case of slut shaming, I think the lack of solidarity among women comes from a similar place. In addition to compliance being incentivized by misogyny itself, I believe that women who have been complicit, whether they are readily forthcoming about it or not, have been so at personal cost. They chose the most favorable way forward despite it being inconsistent with personal desires. To watch other women make a different choice, then, is an affront to those women who sacrificed if those "bad" women go unpunished. And so it is easier to admit that something is morally wrong with those women who actively practice and advocate for female sexual agency than it is to take personal responsibility for one's choice to be complicit, even though others made a different choice and were successful still (success in this case being achieving a happy life, healthy romantic relationships, etc...). 

Types of Women

Misogyny successfully divides women by establishing "good" and "bad" behaviors within various areas of life. As I've already delineated ad nauseam, there are clear sexual parameters that distinguish between good and bad women. But separating women into distinct categories of good and bad, or in other words, typing women, is not limited to sex life alone. Indeed, there are many different types of women that we know quite well.

For instance, the cool girlfriend vs. the needy girlfriend. The rigid girlfriend vs. the spontaneous girlfriend. The supportive wife vs. the career obsessed wife. The soccer mom vs. the working mom. The woman who cooks and cleans vs. the woman who orders Chinese takeout and leaves dirty socks on the floor. I could go on.

Notice not only that women are being typed in these instances in a way that clearly distinguishes between desirable and undesirable traits, but also that all of these types, both good and bad, measure the women's goodness or badness based on how they service (or fail to service) other people - none of the "types" of women are based on traits for which there is no benefit to someone other than the woman herself.

Cool Girlfriend vs. Needy Girlfriend

Who is the cool girlfriend? The cool girlfriend doesn't care when her boyfriend stays out late with the guys and doesn't call. She doesn't care that he goes to strip clubs. She doesn't mind if he comes home, barely acknowledges her presence, plops himself on the couch and proceeds to put something on TV that he knows she has no interest in. She doesn't get emotional about silly things like him checking out their waitress because she isn't insecure. She doesn't mind if he plays video games all day Saturday; she likes video games too so they play them together. She didn't hound him about what they "were" when they started dating, and accepted the fact that he was still seeing other people until he eventually decided that she'd earned the title of girlfriend. She doesn't flip out if he mysteriously hides his phone, or if someone says they found him on a dating app after they've declared themselves exclusive. Most of all, the cool girlfriend is highly independent. She doesn't expect him to pay, check in, sit through romantic comedies with her, or basically do anything that he wouldn't be doing anyway were she not in the picture.

The needy girlfriend, on the other hand, is her scary antithesis. She needs a lot. She needs a phone call when her boyfriend is out late with the guys. She minds that he goes to strip clubs. She doesn't like it when he comes home and ignores her, she wants to spend ::gasp:: "quality time". She feels offended and disrespected if he checks out other women in front of her. She would rather use the weekend productively than on the couch playing video games. She very likely was the one to initiate "the talk" in terms of whether they were seeing other people, or whether they were exclusive, or official. She feels suspicious if he goes to lengths to hide his phone from her, but that's okay because he has a secret app for all his elicit text messages and photos from other women. She may very well be financially independent, have a healthy circle of friends and a life of her own outside of him, but often he feels suffocated by the weight of her expectations and believes that he is her primary focus, insofar in that she is obsessed with what he is doing, where he is doing it, and who he is doing it with (which, to be fair, makes it very difficult for him to cheat on her). As a result she may go by other names inside his social circle, like parol officer, or ball and chain. She expects a whole slew of complicated things, like respect, consideration, fidelity and love, and often he resents the manner in which these expectations infringe on the life he had before her and endeavors to have it in spite of her, behind her back, of course. This is usually her fault, though, because she is so needy and drives him crazy. If she were cool he would magically transform into a better boyfriend, nay, a better person.

The cool girlfriend, in other words, is a woman who essentially has no boundaries and no expectations of how she should be treated. A man dating her need not adjust a single part of his lifestyle to accommodate the relationship. The needy girlfriend has boundaries, has expectations, and in order to successfully date her a man would have to adapt (or appear to).

But let's think about those definitions with respect to men. A man who doesn't have healthy boundaries and who has no expectations of how he should be treated is not a very respected man at all. He is a pushover. He is weak. He is a person that men and women alike can walk all over. A man who does have healthy boundaries and expectations (or, in simpler terms, self-respect) is considered a normal, balanced human being. He is respected by others. He is strong.

So why is it, even though a closer inspection of the "cool" girlfriend reveals that she doesn't have a very high self regard, may have low self-esteem and boundary issues, and may in fact be a rather weak and vulnerable person, that being the "cool" girlfriend is so much more attractive than being the needy one? And why do we call a woman with basic self-respect and personal boundaries needy? Who benefits from women aspiring to have little to no boundaries?

Hmmmm...I wonder.

The Rigid Girlfriend vs. The Spontaneous Girlfriend

Sometimes, as a game, I like to look at OkCupid profiles of men that, according to their algorithm, I am absolutely incompatible with. A lot of their profiles include a criteria of the kind of woman they're looking for, and the word spontaneous almost always pops up there somewhere.

Rigid girlfriends, also know as high-maintanence - are perceived as bad. You know them. These are women with, well, schedules. They have jobs. And after work, they have a yoga class, or a trivia night, or a circle of friends they meet with once a fortnight. They tend to have tidy apartments and/or criteria, like that dishes get washed right away, that coats get hung up, that messes not accumulate. They may have a dietary restriction or two, be them self-imposed or required by an allergy. They also have dominant preferences rather than mutable ones. They likely have very particular tastes in venue, wine, movie, such that interacting with them requires consideration. Spontaneous girlfriends on the other hand are up for anything. Dishes in the sink? It's cool. Dirty coat on the brand new bedspread? It's fine. Brought in pizza even though she's got a gluten allergy? No problem - she'll just pick off the pepperoni and call it a meal. Spontaneous girlfriends are super flexible, low maintenance, and so, so attractive.

Adaptability is a character trait. Some people are more adaptable than others. Some are list makers, itinerary makers, and others wake up and - how do you say? - fly by the seat of their pants. This is true for both men and women. Some are more "set in their ways". Others are not.

However, it is not frowned upon for a man to be set in his ways. Men are expected to be set in their ways. They're expected to have the guys night that they won't give up because they all swore a blood oath back in college that they'd never miss a Monday at the bar. They are expected to spend every single Sunday from August to February on the couch watching football whether your parents are in town from Indonesia or not. It is women who are expected to be highly adaptable. To be flexible. To be the liquid that fits neatly into his life, and could fit into any other, while he is the solid. The constant. It is women who more often give up their social lives, their circle of friends, their schedules, their habits, and when we don't we are regarded as rigid or difficult.

Relationships are about finding common ground. I am extremely rigid and prone to anxiety. My partner is very laid back, very go with the flow, and very calm. Not to trot out the ying and yang, but it works. We mesh. Naturally, there is compromise on both our parts. There has to be. But expecting women to always be the adaptable half of the ying/yang is not a realistic expectation. It's a patriarchal one.

The Supportive Wife vs. The Career Obsessed Wife

Take a moment to consider that there is no such thing as a "career man". That isn't a thing. It isn't a "type" of man. Most people nowadays, be them men or women, do not have the luxury of not working. And yet the "career woman" is a very specific type of woman. She is the woman who doesn't just work because she has to; she wants to. She "actually cares" about her work. She isn't going to give up her career for marriage and children. She might work long hours, or work while at home, or own her own business, or all three. Basically, she takes her work seriously. Even though it is perfectly normal for a man to take his work seriously, it is easy for her seriousness to be labeled an obsession.

The career wife is often juxtaposed against the supportive wife. The supportive wife does not have a high powered career. She may work, but she does something sweet and simple that doesn't require much time, effort or conversation at the dinner table (and even if it isn't quite that simple, it is a feminine coded job, like being a grade school teacher, for example). She listens to his work woes and his career is both their focus, but her career - and he probably wouldn't call it that - is neither the topic of lengthy conversations nor the one that their future is planned around. If his career took them across the country tomorrow she would be onboard without question, no loose ends to tie up, no problem. Bye bye, kindergarten kids. But him moving for her career? Out of the question.

Again, the two women are typed based on the role that they play in the lives of others. The implication is that if the wife is obsessed with her career then she isn't obsessed with or as available for the feminine coded labor that is traditionally expected from a wife, such as providing wifely support. The supportive wife, on the other hand, prioritizes her husband's ambition over her own. They are not equals in the realm of work. The husband of a career obsessed wife would be building a life with an equal rather than a supportive character in his narrative, a sidekick of sorts. And that doesn't seem like a terribly inconvenient situation to find ones self in; being in a relationship with an equal, that is.

And yet, although many modern men prefer to be with a woman who works so as not to have the share all of their hard earned money, most still expect their own career to take precedent.

The Soccer Mom vs. The Working Mother

The series Little Big Lies on HBO does a fantastic job of illustrating the stay-at-home-mom vs. working mom dynamic. The mother who is a CEO feels that she has to prove that she is still an involved "good" mom, and the mother who doesn't work but volunteers part-time vocally expresses preferring to keep her part-time status even though she misses work and is bored with her life in order to hold her "mom first" status over the working mother's heads.

Men are not criticized for failing to quit their jobs the moment their children are born. After school activities, fundraisers, PTA's and other school-related things are still primarily organized by mothers. By women. Women are still overwhelmingly the designated pick-up and drop-off parents. Women still struggle with the second shift, the household labor of cooking, cleaning and childcare that is still not equally distributed in most households despite our so called equality. And too, women are much more likely to work the forth shift. That is, to get up in the middle of the night to soothe and feed children, even if the child is bottle fed and either parent can do it, even if that child is long past baby age and simply had a nightmare. And in situations where households are divided, that is, in instances of divorce, where a couple wasn't married or the parents were never a couple in the first place, children overwhelmingly live with their mothers rather than their fathers, placing the burden of parenting squarely on the shoulders of women while men merely participate intermittently and make monthly financial contributions (if they even do that).

Note: I am not saying that dead beat dads are not stigmatized or that there is no preferred "type" of father. Remember: Misogyny is not contingent on one gender being exclusively affected; this is not an attempt to argue that there are expectations of mothers and not of fathers. I am pointing out that there is a type of mother that is preferred to the other type, and that it is consistent with all other types of women in which the "good" woman is one that provides feminine coded labor in the service of others, and the "bad" woman who does not provide that feminine coded labor and/or trespasses onto masculine coded territory.

Race | Class | Religion | Gender Identity | Sexual Orientation | Nationality

Sexism and misogyny do not look the same in every nation. Within nations they do not look the same in every region. Within regions they do not look the same in every city, within cities they do not look the same in every neighborhood, within neighborhoods they do not look the same in every household. Other aspects at work inside households, neighborhoods, cities, regions and nations affect both women and men differently with respect to how sexism and misogyny are experienced or whether they are experienced at all. These intersectional issues make issues surrounding sexism and misogyny even harder to discern, and is absolutely partially responsible for the pronounced divide among women where one would otherwise presume to find solidarity.

I understand with more clarity now, for example, that when I was arguing with a close friend about catcalling, the pervasiveness of sexual violence and rape culture, I was arguing with an upper middle class white woman, as a middle class woman of color.

Remember that our patriarchy not only prioritizes men, but specifically prioritizes white, heterosexual men. While there is no neat measurement to determine why, white women tend not to side with women of ethnic groups, particularly against white men. There are several hypotheses as for why this might be. One thought is that white women are more likely to be very close to a primary benificiary of patriarchal structure - a father, a brother, a close family member - and more likely than any other ethnicity of women to be romantically paired with one such that they will also benefit. Another thought, though I think this particular argument is rather flimsy, is that white women will be much less aware of how the particular privilege of white makes their female experience so very different from the female experience of a woman of color. That is how women of color will be disproportionately affected by misogyny with respect to catcalling, verbal harassment, sexual harassment, rape and homicide because of the understanding on the part of the offenders that they are less likely to be punished. Not because these women won't try to punish them, but due to society's bias against those women their claims may not be believed, or, if their claims are believed police may be biased against them so that the offenders never go to court, or, if they do go to court the women in question have less financial means to pay talented lawyers; have less social influence to prevent a miscarriage of justice, or, have less of all of the above, all of which are necessary to appeal in a situation in which justice has rather deliberately been ignored.

Take for example Daniel Holtzclaw, and before my obvious feminist colored analysis takes place, let us begin by quoting directly from Wikipedia.


Daniel Ken Holtzclaw (born December 10, 1986) is a former Oklahoma City Police Department patrol officer who was convicted in December 2015 of multiple counts of rape, sexual battery, forcible oral sodomy, and other charges.[6]
Of the thirteen women whom Holtzclaw was convicted of assaulting, several had criminal histories such as drug arrests; all of the women were black.[7] According to the police investigators, Holtzclaw used his position as an officer to run background checks to find information that could be used to coerce sex.[2] During the trial, the defense questioned the victims' credibility during cross-examination, bringing up their criminal records.[8] However, the prosecution argued that victims were deliberately chosen by Holtzclaw for this very reason.[9]
"Holtzclaw pleaded not guilty to all charges. On December 10, 2015, an all-white jury convicted him on 18 of 36 charges, and on January 21, 2016, he was sentenced to 263 years in prison.


Statistically, it is evident beyond argument that young, black men are at a higher risk of being incarcerated than young, white men for the same crimes, for longer sentences, if white men are sentenced at all. It is also evident that black men are at a significantly higher risk of being killed by police officers than white men. Not that these aren't incredibly important realities for all people to consider. But black women are also at higher risk of being incarcerated than white women. Black women are more likely to be sexually assaulted by police officers; are more likely to be unjustly evicted curiously putting them in a very convenient situation that seems to lend itself to the kind of crimes that are later held over their heads to coerce them into, essentially, rape.

The case of Holtzclaw seems promising, but it received very little media attention and is undoubtedly the exception, not the rule. It is likely only because of the overwhelming arrogance on the part of Holtzclaw that led him to systematically seek out black victims with criminal records in order to exploit the relationship between black people and the justice system that his pattern of behavior was undeniable and thereby punished. The point is, while criminal history was definitely a consideration as well, race was the dominant factor that led this serial rapist to assume that his misconduct would go unpunished because these women, even if they did manage to bring him into a courtroom, would be obviously and rather easily discredited.

Religion, too, is its own intersection with respect to gender, sexism and misogyny. Admittedly this isn't a topic that I'm incredibly well versed on - in other words the scarlet A on my sweater stands for something else - and since I have absolutely no doubt that there are qualified women out there to expand on this topic, I'll leave it to them.

It is important to note nonetheless that this is a consideration that can absolutely contribute to one's experience of misogyny. For example, while I in no way, shape or form share the religious beliefs of my extended family I know that religion is partially responsible for certain ideals they hold such as views of what constitutes femininity, masculinity, and the acceptability (or not) of homosexuality. Especially within environments that are deeply religious, the role of women is irrevocably intertwined with religion. Implications regarding sexual orientation aside, it is overwhelmingly customary, for example, within religions for women to do most of the feminine coded labor - like cooking - and to serve men first. Sometimes women do not even eat until men have finished eating themselves and literally pushed their leftovers into the room to which women have been confined, waiting. Also, in the higher ranks of most religions women are completely absent. They literally, by virtue of being female, cannot become leaders in these religious societies. Then we turn around and tell these women who have been taught from their inception that women are not worth as much as men to speak up and ask for that raise.

But I digress...

With respect to gender identity and sexual orientation, there are a lot of different view points, and while I have joined my communities and done my marches I still can't say that I've felt completely welcomed by the LGBTQ community, although for the most part my experiences have been positive.

So let's do some sharing. In terms of identity, I identify as a cis-gendered, bisexual woman. Unless I have the conversation to correct the incorrect presumption, the world usually regards me as a cis-gendered, heterosexual woman, unless they pass behind me in the right sundress and see the proudly displayed "Femme" at the top of my back which represents a bilingual, double entendre from my perspective.

Now, that being said - and with respect to this I can only speak in limited terms informed by my own experience because sadly accurate statistics on the matter do not currently exist - I have experienced misogynist backlash from het men, het women, and lesbian women. Indeed gay men have been more supportive than all others combined. The only saving grace during my tumultuous transition from closeted hetero woman with a lot of secret, inappropriate thoughts to "out" bisexual woman actively dating women and changing her identity on OkCupid was my skin color. That is to say that while I am a woman of color, I'm not a woman of one color. I'm one of those people that even the carefullest racists watch themselves at the dinner table with because they're not sure which race I am and aren't sure what I'll take immediate offense to. That being said, I was born in the 80's and I've got plenty of citable memories from my early years in the 90's and even some in college where I, quote, was too black for the white people, was too white for the black people, and too something else for every other group I share ancestry with but will never acknowledge that despite science. Point is, I was used to social rejection on the basis of bullshit.

Bisexual women face very unique challenges. Men automatically think that threesomes with us are an option, because we like women too, regardless of our feelings about fidelity, about open relationships, or whether both women involved are actually attracted to him. Our online dating inboxes have couples galore, because we're the "unicorn" every couple wants to find, regardless of our desire to form a meaningful partnership and have kids with someone who sees us as more than the object with which to spice up their sex life. Our preferences with respect to men vs. women (if we have them) are thought inconsequential to others, such that even men who are onboard with open relationships may naïvely suggest that we only date other women. But because of the way that we can and do often slip under the gaydar and do not experience the same immediate backlash as lesbians, we aren't as readily welcomed into the fold. So there you have it - too gay for the straight women; too straight for the gay women.

Another topic that I don't feel completely right expanding on because by virtue of being cis-gendered I do not have a full understanding, is transgender women, and how they are affected by misogyny. And with that, too, is nationality. In the USA we're thought to be on our third wave of feminism, believed to have come to a head with #MeToo and #TimesUp, while in other parts of the world women just got the right to drive (yay, Saudi Arabia!), are still essentially sold into marriage like cattle, are victims of human trafficking (although that still does happen here at home but is especially pervasive for girls and boys in areas where they can be born "stateless"), and won't be deciding whether to wear a pink or yellow sweater tomorrow because their wardrobe has been predetermined for them.

These intersections are often used incorrectly as an argument for invalidating all feminist attempts by any one of these groups. Instead, we need to recognize that while there are different ways that sexism and misogyny intersect with race, with class, with religion, gender identity, sexual orientation and nationality we are all still feeling its effects, albeit unequally. Part of what misogyny does best is divide women, making us easier to conquer. We need to start looking at all of these issues as parts of the same whole; movements toward the same goal. 

Sexism | Misogyny | Violence Against Women

Women are dying. As seen in the earlier statistics I cited, women are dying predominantly at the hands of men. Not from cancer. Not from car accidents. Women are not just losing our lives.

Our are being taken.

Unlike cancer, however, which despite the many forms it takes - leukemia, stomach cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, etc. - is measured as a whole as well as broken down into its specific subcategories, there is little to no acknowledgement save from feminists that the killing of women is, in fact, an epidemic.

Instead, when women are killed the male offenders are given any title but misogynist, even in clear cases such as the Isla Vista killings when gender clearly fueled the attack, so that there is another conversation to have - any conversation - besides misogyny. Instead we talk about gun violence with respect to mass shootings where sororities were targeted, we talk about the stock market when family annihilators take their wives and children to the grave with them rather than face shame (all victims including the fathers, in this case, are victims of the effects of hyper-masculinity if you ask me), we talk about mental illness when women are gang raped on public transportation, or if we're really fucked up we talk about curfews, we talk about substance abuse when husbands beat wives within an inch of their lives, or if we're disgusting enough we talk about the fact that women shouldn't yell at their husbands. But we don't talk about misogyny. A young woman carries the mattress she was raped on around her college campus and we don't talk about privilege, and gender inequality, and rape culture. We pretend these things are perception based exaggerations and ignore the scores of women who are literally in the ground due to nothing more than willful ignorance on the part of those of us who have the wherewithal to know better.

Misogyny divides women into good vs. bad, white vs. black, rich vs. poor, American vs. French, Eastern European vs. African, privileged and underprivileged, rape victim vs. harassment victim - this is all a smoke screen.

This is not about what "type" of woman you are. No woman is exempt from this fight, because no woman is exempt from the effects of misogyny, though some may experience less than others, and some may experience more than most. And as seen by the myriad of other issues that intersect with women's rights, the LGBTQ fight is also our fight, the Black Lives Matter fight is also our fight, the fight for socioeconomic justice is also our fight. We are half the population; we facilitate the birth of the other half for crying out loud. Women's rights are human rights, so unless you're from Vulcan and being coy about it, this is your fight.

Feminism is for everyone, but if you lack a Y chromosome it is especially for you. We can't get side tracked over who has privilege, or who is playing the victim (quick reminder that the current statistic for who is actually a victim is 1 out of 5, 1 out of 4 on college campuses, in case the fortunate 75-80 percent ever forgets that), and especially not over who gets to use the hashtag.

We have to stand together. To put it Game of Throne style, "...the real war isn't between a few squabbling houses. It is between the living and the dead."

Misogyny is like the army of the dead. Every human against feminism is essentially a part of the misogynists' army.

And make no mistake, my ladies. The misogynists are coming...

#FeminismIsForEveryone

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