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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