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Jenn Frank: "I was one of the guys. I was always one of the guys."
November 18, 2012 8:57 AM   Subscribe

I Was A Teenage Sexist - "Girls – the ones we think of as “cool” – don’t trust other women, women who play by gender “rules” that the rest of us cannot quite understand. The most important things those women can seemingly do are spend money on clothes and appeal to the opposite sex. Meanwhile, we ourselves don’t feel particularly female. We only feel like people. It’s a tough fall. People intuitively detect that attitude, go out of their way to remind you that you’re not fooling anybody. You are a woman, and you will only ever be a woman."

Some of the links in Frank's piece:
*Claudia Gray - “I’m not like the other girls.”: "It saddens me to see girls proudly declaring they’re not like other girls – especially when it’s 41,000 girls saying it in a chorus, never recognizing the contradiction. It’s taking a form of contempt for women – even a hatred for women – and internalizing it by saying, Yes, those girls are awful, but I’m special, I’m not like that, instead of stepping back and saying, This is a lie."
*The Trouble With Bright Girls: "...more often than not, bright girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice." (Carol Dweck previously on MeFi)
*Non-feminists 'more hostile' towards men than feminists, study finds
*The Big, Bad F Word — Feminism
*Leigh Alexander on Kotaku - I’m Tired of Being a “Woman in Games.” I’m a Person.: "And yet I can't even say that—"stop making a big deal out of my gender"—because the war against sexism in the video game space isn't nearly won."
*(Anita Sarkeesian previously on MeFi here and here)

Other links:
*FAQ: What is "internalized sexism"?
*How to Raise a Female Misogynist
*“You’re not like most women” is not a compliment!
*Another Word: The Exceptional Smurfette, or Being One of the Guys as a Superpower:
However, I feel that when one archetype becomes so dominant as to pretty much be associated with the genre (urban fantasy and its heroines conform to this mold often enough for us to have this conversation), it is probably time to challenge that and to ask ourselves: Do our strong, kick-ass heroines need to be walking representations of internalized sexism? Can they function without male approval? Will they die if they occasionally have a girlfriend or two who is not into the whole vampire-fighting business and yet is presented as pleasant and levelheaded? I sure would like to see more of them.
*Yes, I'm a Feminist: Why Aren't You?:
Anyway, here’s the deal: a long time ago I was not a feminist. A short time ago I was not a feminist, either. Feminism for me was very hard to embrace because I was swaddled in misogyny. I played professional Counter-Strike, I raided hardcore in World of Warcraft, and I was an active spectator for other eSports. I’m used to calling people slurs and I’m used to being told to get in the kitchen. I played up to sexist jokes all the time and, if we’re being honest, I liked it. I was also actively a female who turned on other females in these environments.
*I'm A Carrie! Why I'm Not Ashamed to Like Girl Stuff Anymore:
In a society that disparages women's culture, distancing oneself from that culture is one survival strategy women can use. "Yes, women suck, but I'm not like all those other women." Touting a preference for male culture while looking down on female culture can be a workaround -- a way of benefitting from sexism by aligning yourself with the dominant regime.
*Lighten Up:
Recently, I was asked why a woman that loves coding would ever leave the field... I love coding. Been doing it since before I hit puberty. I did it when I barely had the money to keep a server up. I do it on the weekends and evenings, and I'm teaching my kids how to do it. I've spent thousands of dollars to go to conferences so I can learn more about it. Why would I ever leave the profession where I got paid real money to do what I love? In short, I got tired of being told to 'lighten up.'
*The culture of 'chill': a dialogue:
N: I would define a chill person as someone who “goes with the flow,” who doesn’t assert his/her opinions in an aggressive manner, someone who is laid back; a girl who can easily hang out with guys. J: Definitely. For women specifically, I think being compatible with a group of guys is a huge component of being chill. Although I’m not sure that there are any qualities that I would assign to being able to hang out with a group of guys. But, almost every girl I’ve known who has been labeled a “chiller,” has been able to hang out primarily with guys.
*Connecting with female characters in geek television:
If feminists feel pressure to be accepted as “one of the guys,” imagine how geek women feel, particularly early in their lives, when they often feel isolated from one another. This tendency to dislike female characters reminds me of another ”being one of the guys” strategy: I often meet women who tell me proudly, “I just don’t get along with women. All of my best friends have been guys.”
posted by flex (83 comments total) 215 users marked this as a favorite

 
I haven't got time to read this now but it looks like a great piece and one I'll identify with. I never didn't identify as a feminist, but I was supremely guilty of having and voicing anti-woman attitudes and adopting the "one of the guys" stance in high school and to some degree a longish time afterward.
posted by Miko at 9:10 AM on November 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


Brb loading up Instapaper. Lots of meat in this one.
posted by immlass at 9:14 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


A year later, in a bar on New Year’s Eve, I presented my theory as to why comediennes aren’t funny: “They do these minority jokes where you’re supposed to go ‘it’s so true,’ and it’s like, look, you aren’t in the minority; you’re half the world’s population.”

Upon my announcing this, the dude whooped and slapped me a high-five. “Nailed it!” he cackled.

Yep, I was one of the guys.


Since we're (presumably??) avoiding crude sweeping generalizations of what "female culture" is like here, might we also try to avoid crude sweeping generalizations of what "male culture" is like?

Oh wait, looks like we're going to be generalizing about "female culture" too:

Girls – the ones we think of as “cool” – don’t trust other women, women who play by gender “rules” that the rest of us cannot quite understand. The most important things those women can seemingly do are spend money on clothes and appeal to the opposite sex.

Also this: "Of “sex,” “gender,” and “sexual preference,” gender is the one that is fake. Gender varies from culture to culture, from era to era; it’s the one you get to put on and take off, like fingernail polish or a skirt. It’s the construct advertisers use to market one type of doll to girls and another type of doll to boys.

There's a vibe here that Jenn Frank did not get much beyond Cultural Studies 101
posted by Bwithh at 9:16 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a teenager, I identified as a feminist but disliked most actual women because I didn't think they acted in a feminist way. I think at some point I actually told my friends that I was a "feminist misogynist." And I always really wanted to be "one of the guys", because it seemed easier than navigating the political realities of being female, but I didn't really get along with men either. Still, the "boys' club" sounded like fun - a place where you could just like what you liked and be who you were without having to view it through the lens of your sex.

Once I was in college, majoring in computer science, I ended up being "one of the guys" by default since there weren't really enough women in my class to form a social group. I quickly discovered that the "boys' club" was just as full of boring status jockeying and one-upmanship and incomprehensible social games as my Girl Scout troop had ever been.

Now I'm just your garden-variety equal-opportunity misanthrope.
posted by town of cats at 9:18 AM on November 18, 2012 [45 favorites]


I dunno Bwithh, I don't think you need to have a minor in cultural studies to reflect out loud on your evolving understanding of yourself and your place in society. If you don't get all of the steps right at least you're trying to follow the beat. The main linked piece did make me reflect that the ONE comment you always see on any Youtube video of a young woman playing an instrument is "u r hot." As if she posted this video so you could say something about how physically attractive you think she is.

For most of my life I was the one guy in a big group of female friends. I don't know that I had to pretend to be anything, but the price of perceived femininity in a straight teenager when dealing with other guys? Rough. And yes, it did give me a deep dislike for anything I perceived to be "guy culture," something I only started coming to grips with in my late 20s. Still hate sports though.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:24 AM on November 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


I've always been a feminist, but it took a long time to realize that my identification with second- rather than third-wave feminism often had quite a bit to do with my own anxiety about performing femininity properly. I don't know that I think this is all my fault--for whatever reason, I was pigeonholed into the role of tomboy in my family even though I liked my baby dolls as much as my hotwheels, even though I was never very good at sports. Hell, I remember the Passover when my mom curled my hair and we got there and my cousins made me wear a yarmulke and called me "Philip" all night. I wasn't included in their games of dressing in my grandmother's wedding gown; they never taught me how to braid my hair. I realize that this was a closed narrative, one that wasn't useful later (finding youtube videos on style as an adult has been empowering--I can perform femininity if I want!), but I very much relented rather than fought; I had a pretty bad self-image. In my head, I've been (for a long time), what I've thought of as a "grubby girl," scrappy, snarl-haired, neither male nor female, and so finding out that, in the 60s and 70s, there were women who fought to be that way, and successfully, meant that I could embrace that part of myself, too. And it took embracing that part of myself--not seeing it as lesser--to be able to learn that it's okay to do the feminine things I like (and have always, secretly, liked), too.

I've always had great female friends, though. I'm glad for that.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:31 AM on November 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


That first link is terrific; thanks for posting it. A few snippets:
I get it. I do. The Internet hates everyone. And you can’t fix everyone. It’s easy to be a pessimist, or else it’s easy to feel like enough has changed (or too much has changed so please hush already).

Moreover, the Internet condemns any dissenting opinion. Consider the higher-profile videogame critic: should he score a game a point too low, here come the superfans, wishing him cancer and AIDS. We turn a blind eye toward those superfans. “The lowest of the low,” we nod, “the vocal minority! Don’t feed the trolls.”

What we mean is, That’s not me. I know I am a good person. Those people aren’t my problem.

. . .

No, it doesn’t happen only to girls – everyone gets harassed or attacked sometime. But it does happen especially to girls.

Even speaking as an ex-anti-feminist, I just cannot understand how that idea is controversial.

. . .

Feminism is on your side! Feminism is for everybody!
I don't have time to investigate the others right now, but I'm glad they're gathered together for easy access.
posted by languagehat at 9:35 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thought-provoking piece - thanks. Going to go read other links now.
posted by rtha at 9:40 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Feminists and others have coined another great term, “gender dysphoria.”

Uh, what the fuck? It's not like she does an awfully good job of defending it in her response link either, with gems like "The column is written for people like me who might feel like they are on the outside of feminism looking in." Hey trans people! I'm going to utterly overlook history and medical literature and appropriate one of your terms, ascribing its use and origin to 'feminists and others', basically redefining it entirely, but it's okay, because - much like my experiences and view of feminism - it's not for you. You couldn't possibly have had experiences or feelings similar to mine, because you're trans, remember? I'm talking about women - and not you - being seen as people here.

Ugh.
posted by Dysk at 9:41 AM on November 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


I've identified as a feminist for as long as I can remember, because of an outspokenly feminist mother and a father, who didn't explicitly identify as feminist that i can recall, but was a wonderful feminist ally in so many different ways. Going to school and college in India was a shock for me as there were so many things that I had taken for granted when ensconced in the bosom of my family that were so far from settled in the outside world, particularly in the conservative South Indian city I was in.

When I was 15 I transferred from the laid-back, egalitarian school I had been in, to a much more competitive, conservative school, that had a great record for college admissions. I met my first boyfriend there. Soon after we first became friends but before we began dating, he announced matter-of-factly that girls were no good at quizzes (the trivia sort), something I was very much into. I was incensed, and slapped him across the face. He was very angry but was restrained from any sort of retaliation by another guy friend, who told him that he had after all been rather provocative. The next day he came up to me and apologized, saying that he had talked to his father about it and had a long discussion with him about how teachers' expectations play into these sort of things. After all he said, if he hadn't been urged to participated in quizzes from a very young age, he might never have gotten any good at it. He felt too that teachers at the conservative school we were in were bad about encouraging girls to participate in such activities. I accepted his apology and we became closer friends after that. At some point, he told me that I was so different from all the other girls. I thanked him and patiently explained why his sampling of girls at our conservative school was not representative of the girl population at large.

I guess I don't know why I'm rambling on about this, something about this essay just brought those memories to mind.
posted by peacheater at 9:49 AM on November 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


Every time I read one of these articles about, in part, how long it took for someone to realize they were a feminist I can't help but think that one problem feminism has is it's very name. Why the first link states, "Feminism is on your side! Feminism is for everybody!" it really just doesn't sound like it.

It sounds like it's for women, men not invited.

And the way things sound is important. The writer says that: Professors applauded my refusal to use “humankind” as a substitute for “mankind". I had, originally, the same feeling she did. Why not use "mankind" as its real meaning included all of humanity.

Eventually I realized that it's because the connotations of the word are that humanity's story is Men's story; and that's insulting and factually wrong.

Feminism (or at least many branches) claims that its real meaning is about equality and rights for all. But the connotations of the word are that it's for Women only; and with that is it any surprise that many men and women who like/love men have a knee-jerk reaction against it?

The way things sound is so important that political parties spent vast amount of time and money to try to get something called a "Death tax" instead of an "Estate Tax". But these lessons of marketing seem completely lost on the feminist movement as a whole. Feminism says that it wants to change the world, but doesn't seem like it's in it to win in this aspect.

In short: Feminism as a philosophy; dig it. Feminism as a title for that philosophy; bad choice.

---

I wonder if many feminists have something akin to "Brand loyalty" the to name to an extent that the group as a whole is locked into a less than ideal brand name. Any marketers/advertisers out there know if there's a term where a brand name has so much inertia behind it that it's difficult for the company to change names even if the old name is seriously problematic?
posted by bswinburn at 9:51 AM on November 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


While I've favourited this and want to come back to read it all, I'm noticing my hesitation about writing anything related to the topic in this thread. Interesting.
posted by infini at 9:52 AM on November 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


"Feminists and others have coined another great term, “gender dysphoria.”"
Uh, what the fuck?


She engaged with the person who criticized her on that and asked for more information -
The column is written for people like me who might feel like they are on the outside of feminism looking in. All that aside, I never intended the column or its language, deeply uncomfortable as it is, to cause undue pain or be anything less than careful and loving. If it has, I’ve utterly failed.

...am I still allowed to call it gender dysphoria? Am I co-opting someone else’s language and vocabulary without having the right, is what I’m sincerely asking. And if I am co-opting a vocabulary that does not belong to me, how should I change those three words... so that I can still describe hating my body in a gender-binary way? I will edit it, but I’m also at a loss, here.
Also she linked that person's criticism and their dialogue (the comments there) back to the piece in the phrase ("feminists and others") quoted.
posted by flex at 9:56 AM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


She engaged with the person who criticized her on that and asked for more information -

...and I quoted from that, and responded to it.
posted by Dysk at 9:57 AM on November 18, 2012


I'm clarifying for context, since you did not link to the response you were quoting.
posted by flex at 9:57 AM on November 18, 2012


I think I need this. I think I am this, some of it. Thank you.
posted by windykites at 10:07 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The way things sound is so important that political parties spent vast amount of time and money to try to get something called a "Death tax" instead of an "Estate Tax". But these lessons of marketing seem completely lost on the feminist movement as a whole. Feminism says that it wants to change the world, but doesn't seem like it's in it to win in this aspect.

Come up with a new title for Feminism - leaving aside for a moment the logistical implications thereof - and I guarantee that within seconds you will have an army of Internet squirrels finding reasons why this new title is shamelessly advocating the destruction/disenfranchisement of all men.

It's kind of like the tone argument, in that sense. The claim of the tone argument is that if campaigners for equality or social justice (often but not always feminists) just adopt a more conciliatory tone, they will be listened to, but in many cases there is no tone conciliatory enough to make what they are saying acceptable to the people who are saying that tone is the problem. Likewise, you can call feminism the Fluffy Love Equality Parade, and it's going to sound sinister and aggressive to people who are fundamentally opposed to the goals of feminism (i.e. gender equality).

(See also "why should only colored people be advanced?", "why is there no white history month?", "how come I can't say I'm proud to be straight?" und so weiter.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:11 AM on November 18, 2012 [32 favorites]


Holy shit a lot of this is familiar, including the phrase "feminist misogynist" which I ALSO used to describe myself in high school. WHOA!

One of the things that's helped a lot as I've gotten older is actually not caring what people think instead of just trying to present like I don't care what people think. I was TERRIFIED of being "uncool" or "not funny" when I was younger and now, while I'm pretty confident in the fact that I am actually fucking hilarious (fact) I am also totally willing to be considered unfunny for pointing out that something is actually sexist. I'm confident enough in being a funny, intelligent woman that I am able to say "No, this is not okay. It's not that I don't get it and it's not that I have no sense of humor, it's just not okay." When I was in high school the idea that someone would think I didn't get it or had no sense of humor was horrifying whereas now if someone thinks I'm not funny or don't get it I assume that THEY have no sense of humor or are just an asshole. It's very liberating BUT it's taken a long time to get here.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:15 AM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Since we're (presumably??) avoiding crude sweeping generalizations of what "female culture" is like here, might we also try to avoid crude sweeping generalizations of what "male culture" is like?

Oh wait, looks like we're going to be generalizing about "female culture" too:
Yeah, that's inherent in these sort of discussion, you cannot but need to make some generalisations or you get lost in a tangle of clarifications and exceptions.

Also, a on a cultural level we don't really get to be special snowflakes anymore: or reasons for doing x instead of y don't matter if e.g. it's usually men who do x and women who do y.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:16 AM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


While I've favourited this and want to come back to read it all, I'm noticing my hesitation about writing anything related to the topic in this thread. Interesting.

I quite personally understand why someone might feel that way, since I have felt that way myself all too often (especially around here).

And I'm sorry you feel that way.
posted by flex at 10:18 AM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Feminism as a title for that philosophy; bad choice.

I'm not sure if they'll be able to find a word that someone won't find a way to attach the suffix "-nazi" to.
posted by FJT at 10:26 AM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


yahtzeenazi.
posted by elizardbits at 10:34 AM on November 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


Come up with a new title for Feminism - leaving aside for a moment the logistical implications thereof - and I guarantee that within seconds you will have an army of Internet squirrels finding reasons why this new title is shamelessly advocating the destruction/disenfranchisement of all men.

I think you're right, but the point isn't to convince everyone. No one will ever convince everyone of anything. The point is to reach more people, and I think a better name would help do that. Your argument to me, which I think is that changing the name won't please and convince everyone, rings of the prefect being the enemy of the good.
posted by bswinburn at 10:41 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know that the point of feminism is to reach more people. I don't know that there is a specific point. Feminism identifies a longstanding imbalance of power, and how the history of that imbalance continues to play out, consciously or unconsciously, in contemporary society. It seems a perfectly serviceable name.

I suppose when that philosophy becomes activist, as a tactical measure and for clarity, it might seek to have a name that addresses its activism. And it often does. But I think the greatest issue with the word feminism just now is that so many misogynists have turned it into a epithet, and they are capable of doing that with any word at all, even if feminism were to rebrand itself the Happy Love Party. In fact, even if it were to do so, people would still insist on calling it feminism, or worse, in the way that some conservatives insist on calling liberalism socialism. They would make sure it is an epithetic, and, if there is one thing despised groups long ago discovered, there is great power in seizing that epithet, redefining it, and claiming it for yourself.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:49 AM on November 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


flex, there you go again, posting awesome stuff that will suck me in for hours!
posted by bardophile at 10:58 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The best thing that ever happened to me, women's-relationships-wise, was living in a single-sex dorm in college. I always had at least a couple close girlfriends, but in high school in particular there was real social safety in being the girl in a male friend-group; if you got socially cut dead by the girls, you could pretend you didn't care because you were friends with GUYS and, whatever, you didn't really understand all this stupid girl-stuff anyway with all the gossip and backstabbing and whatnot. In retrospect, I imagine there's the same safety for guys who hang with the girls. You lose status for not ranking high in your own gender social hierarchy, but you protect at least SOME status by refusing to care about your gender's hierarchy. You get called unfeminine or gay or whatever for hanging out with the "wrong" sex, but you can't be totally socially destroyed by being made outcast, and you can turn your refusal to compete for status into a form of status-competition itself, by devaluing the way everyone else is competing.

Anyway, I went to college where all the dorms were single-sex, and my relationships with women just blossomed and my negative ideas about how "most girls are" (competitive, backstabbing, gossipy) fell away and it made me a much healthier person who liked herself a lot more because I no longer had this underlying misogynistic thought that I had to guard myself against being X or doing Y, things that "most girls" did, that would make ME a bad person.

I've thought about it a lot because single-sex environments can be very unhealthy environments where people compete for scarce goods (attention of the opposite sex) and engage in strenuous boundary-policing in really negative and destructive ways. But they can also be really healthy environments where adolescents are free to engage in the emotional and intellectual work of becoming reasonably self-actualized people without negative and destructive gender stereotyping or competition for opposite-sex attention. This was a very healthy environment, and I'm not sure how or why -- I don't know if it's the adult leadership guiding it, or the women in the institution, or what, but this was a healthy environment. And it was interesting to me that there were these two different narratives about the need for single-sex dorms among the school administration, one that was a very conservative attitude about young people and sex (i.e., they should not be having it, and cannot help themselves if they are in the same building together after dark), and the other a very liberal feminist attitude about creating safe spaces for women to cooperate, collaborate, lead, manage, etc., without retrograde gender attitudes relegating them to second-class status (or, we students being adolescents, doing it to ourselves by deferring to the guys so as not to be labeled bitches).

Anyway, it was a sort-of improbable way to come to learning that women are awesome and discarding a lot of ingrained patriarchal attitudes, but that's what did it: Single-sex dorms.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:29 AM on November 18, 2012 [28 favorites]


I haven't gotten around to reading the rest of the links, but I identify strongly with the first link. Excellent piece, though it made me wince a little with the memories of how I'd behaved as a young woman (though who doesn't cringe at some of the things we said in college?). This was me in my early twenties, down to adopting some of the the ugliest aspects of male culture in order to be one of the guys. Ironically, it was a man who pointed out my hypocrisy and sexism. I had to realize that I wasn't making myself stronger by becoming "one of the guys". I was running away and trying to cheat the system. I was alienating myself from the kind of support base I actually needed, as well. My attitude turned away men who were pro-women, and women who had the sense to like themselves for who they were. I surrounded myself with sexists and brittle, self-loathing "cool" women who only helped magnify my insecurities. I've been significantly happier since dropping the "one of the guys" approach and simply being me.

You are a woman, and you will only ever be a woman.

I know her point is to point out the second-class status of being female in the patriarchy, but fuck yeah I'm a woman. It took me a long time to feel this way, but I'm proud of it.
posted by rhythm and booze at 11:35 AM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is a great post overall, and this whole topic brings up lots of interesting thoughts for me. I was interested in social justice since early high school, but ended up being pretty reluctant to call myself a "feminist" for various reasons. I remember once in high school, a friend and I went to a feminism rally on the Mall in DC (I grew up just outside DC in Northern Virginia). Having done a lot of rallies/protests for Amnesty International, we were pretty excited. At the rally, there were a lot of women walking around bare breasted, and lots of people talking about their "bushes" and stuff like that. We were pretty sheltered high school kids from a conservative town and though we were trying to break out of all that, we were still sheltered high school kids and the whole thing was kind of overwhelming. I remember using that word at the time to describe it - overwhelming. Not bad, not wrong, just - TOO MUCH. I sort of retreated from feminism after that because I thought while I was into equality and all, I didn't want to be running around with no shirt on, etc. I mean, it was a kid's perspective, which is also representative in the article when the author is talking about her high school/early college thoughts and experiences.

I've mostly come around to describing myself as a feminist because of Metafilter, where people keep repeating the "feminism is about equality, and why wouldn't you be for equality? line. I was never as fully misogynist as the author claims to have been, but I did have thoughts like, "men get straight to the point, it's so refreshing" and sort of gender-essentialist stuff like that.

Even thought I have a lot of liberal friends and live in NYC, it's really only Metafilter where I feel comfortable talking about having rejected gender essentialist type thinking. It's everywhere and so pernicious. I remember having a long conversation with a friend where she was saying she expected men to cheat on her because they have to have sex a lot and find different partners, like they did in hunter-gatherer days or whatever, because they are programmed to propagate the species and it isn't their fault. She looked at me like I was an alien when I said I don't believe that, and this "men think about sex all the time" while women don't and are supposed to just sigh about it, is a socially ingrained idea that's not strictly biological (and therefore it's changeable).

At work a few weeks ago I was in the elevator and heard a woman talking to a colleague saying "My father really wanted a boy, so it's really weird, I grew up really interested in guy stuff like baseball and politics." Like, I like sports but understand people think of it as a guy thing, but politics? I really wanted to say something about how women made the difference in this election and how can you even say things like that out loud but, you know, work.
posted by sweetkid at 11:37 AM on November 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm male, and "hanging out with the guys" has, from grade school on, despite the entree of success in sports, made my skin crawl almost every time, and resulted in violent confrontation more times than I'd care to admit.

I don't claim to be blameless in this, or that any person born would find it easy to get along with me, but I think many women who want to be one of the guys want it only because they haven't experienced it.

On the other hand, there has been no place for me in groups of women. My partner, for example, has an accomplished, ambitious, very interesting, loving, extremely close-knit and loyal group of woman friends with whom I'm simply incompatible; one of them, a ranking officer in the military and married mother of two, has been known to refer to me as 'Lord Voldemort'.

I've been calling myself a feminist since junior high-- John Stuart Mill and Simone De Beauvoir had a lot to do with crystallizing my thinking about gender relations, as I recall-- but I didn't feel that made me a member of anything, and I still don't.

I think feminist women ought not to go out of their way at all to try to accommodate men or recruit men into the movement; I feel that women ought to listen to their own thoughts and each other, and worry about what men think or do not think as little as is practicable.

Mary Daly is the contemporary feminist thinker who really speaks to me.
posted by jamjam at 12:03 PM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have written out, and deleted, three completely different comments. This has given me a lot to think about. Thanks, flex.
posted by ambrosia at 12:30 PM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Count me in as yet another lady who spent my teen years not wanting to be one of "those girls," and who hopefully has gotten a lot better. One thing I'm still working out, though, is stuff like the I'm a Carrie piece. I hate Sex and the City (and America's Next Top Model, and Jennifer Weiner novels), I really do. I think it is stupid shallow shit.* And I am scared that by saying that I'm being unfairly overcritical of "women's culture," but I also don't really feel like any of those things have much to do with my life and experiences as a woman, and I don't think I should have to embrace them just because they are "women's media." I like plenty of "girly" things (well-written rom-coms, ballet, adorable baby animals, lacy underwear, mascara, white wine, 90s female singer-songwriters, certain attractive male movie stars), but some girly things truly are shit. Lots of guy things are also shit (see: many, though not all, action movies). I don't know how to say this without sounding too pretentious (and I admit that I do have my own dumb fluffy interests), but lots of mainstream American consumer culture is shit, whether it's aimed at men or women. I'm still trying to figure out ways to talk about this stuff without sounding like an asshole. I dunno.

*But I don't particularly want to debate the merits of those specific things here and if you like them that is totally ok and I don't think you personally are stupid and shallow for liking them.
posted by naoko at 12:49 PM on November 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


I have nothing intelligent to add to this discussion, really (at least right now)...I just wanted to let flex know that I dig this post all the way.
posted by sc114 at 1:12 PM on November 18, 2012


Struggling to respond here. So many complicated memories and feelings. So much complicated present. Not wanting to be one of "those girls" is something I still struggle with. That I had internalized the basic misogynistic theme that "male ways of looking at things are normal/better/cooler" is something I hadn't even really realized until relatively recently.
posted by bardophile at 1:15 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, I think her argument in that piece is that media that celebrates really shallow, stereotypical male things is still more acceptable than media that celebrates really shallow, stereotypical female things. I am still learning to be as open about my deep and abiding love for Love Actually as I am about my deep and abiding love for movies starring Vin Diesel.

There's lots of other stuff here to chew on, but as a girl who spent most of high school pretending she enjoyed playing pool and video games to "balance out" the six days a week spent in the ballet studio, it's ringing kind of true.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:25 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I think her argument in that piece is that media that celebrates really shallow, stereotypical male things is still more acceptable than media that celebrates really shallow, stereotypical female things.

Yes, I think this is absolutely true. I guess I feel like sometimes when women commentators want to make this point, they do it by getting overly defensive of shallow, stereotypical female things and making it sort of seem like if I hate SATC then I must hate other women or something.
posted by naoko at 1:43 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It sounds like it's for women, men not invited.

This is a common criticism of feminism that I hear from both men of all ages, and younger women (like my 22 year old friend at work).

I don't know that a name change would address it, however. As Bunny and others pointed out, chauvinism is insidious and relentless. It is after, all, not the name that chauvinism is attacking, but the concepts.

The worst part is, I have personally certainly met feminists that really believe this. I believe that it's not a kind of misandry or whatever, but a discourse that plays into the more hegemonic aspects of femininty - as I've seen those same feminists dismissing any arguments (or support) that doesn't align 100% to their views with equal vigor. There was one forum I used to frequent where some of the feminists would explicitly shut down and exclude any men (or women) that disagreed with them on complex topics; their were not genuine feminists. It was so frustrating, it's like, dude we agree on 95% of this stuff, you're gonna fight the remaining 5% tooth and nail when there's so much 100% wrong out there?

In some ways, I think this is a product of the evolution/clash between second and third wave movements. I suppose the second wave didn't - being a feminism borne largely out of a white, western and middle class milieu, and focused on the same - have the same diversity of views. Third wave is in some ways the opposite - "As a woman, I decide what feminism/equality/whatever means to me". Conflict arises when a diversity of thought internalises some of the vocabulary/dialogue/certainty of the second wave.

I guess this all sounds very wish washy; but I think the diversity of feminism shucks easy generalisation, and I think it's important for these conversations to be inclusive and respectful. Also, I wonder if history hasn't rounded the corners off the diversity of second wave, and the intensity of its internal debates.

Either way, I suppose I just want to say that I'm familiar with that discourse, bswinburn, but as a man interested in feminism (or anyone, really), you gotta work with what you can work with. If people don't want you in their feminism, you have no right or requirement to be there. But they don't represent the totality of feminism (no one person could), and I don't need to let anyone else define what feminism is to me, if I don't want to. This doesn't preclude listening to what other feminists (and as a man, women, obviously) have to say, and absorbing it. But it doesn't require some kind of lock-step march, either.

Great post, Flex.
posted by smoke at 1:45 PM on November 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


Thank you flex.

I don't really have much to add, because many of these comments, and the first link, are like messages from a different world or time. Is it because I was a teenager in the early 70s, during the flowering of what was referred to as "Women's Liberation", that I never had any difficulty with thinking of myself as a feminist, or as female? Was it just because I grew up during a certain hippie-ish cultural moment of valuing what was "natural" that I never learned, or cared to learn, how to use makeup, except for 1982-ish displays of punk rock type eyeliner? I always thought of myself as untutored in girl stuff--to this day I don't know how hair products work, really, and I only started getting real haircuts in the last couple of years; before that I just went to the barber for a trim and did my own bangs-- but I've never felt out of place. Alienated, yes, such as when someone at work one year gave her staff a special homemade soap goo to add to our own "personal beauty regimes", whatever those might be. But I always felt I belonged in my own boho enclave. It's interesting, watching different aspects of gender division play out; all I know is that I would have been-- and likely was, on many occasions, when classroom discussions revealed You Are Fucking Kidding Me attitudes-- the woman in the literature class who fixed Jenn Frank with that white hot glare and then wrote her off forever.
posted by jokeefe at 1:54 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember having a long conversation with a friend where she was saying she expected men to cheat on her because they have to have sex a lot and find different partners, like they did in hunter-gatherer days or whatever, because they are programmed to propagate the species and it isn't their fault.

Yeah, thanks a lot Dan Savage, you ass. And every evo-psych researcher out there.
posted by jokeefe at 1:57 PM on November 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


Feminism (or at least many branches) claims that its real meaning is about equality and rights for all. But the connotations of the word are that it's for Women only; and with that is it any surprise that many men and women who like/love men have a knee-jerk reaction against it?

Yes, exactly. This is why I don't call myself a feminist even though women are equals is "well duh!"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:20 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Meanwhile, we ourselves don’t feel particularly female. We only feel like people."

Ooooh, this really struck a chord with me. I spent some time wondering is I was transgendered because I just didn't feel female. But I don't feel male either. I just feel me.

I've been experimenting with femininity lately, the make-up/clothes/hair versions of it, and I'm so wary of getting too involved. When I was a teenager it felt like the gateway drug to eating disorders and abusive relationships, I shaved my head and ran in the opposite direction. It feels like I'm playing with a trap, that once I start to get part way in I'll only be able to keep going. I know a lot of women who spend more and more time on their appearance as their lives get harder and their self worth slips below sea level. It turns into a symptom of deeper problems. You can never be attractive enough for the world. Is my testing different blushes a wormhole that will destroy my self-image? Why do I see it as so hard to be feminine and self assured? And why can't mohawks be feminine??

Uhg.
posted by Dynex at 2:27 PM on November 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


But the connotations of the word are that it's for Women only

I disagree; that's a pretty limited reading of the -ism suffix. It merely identifies something as being an abstract noun. -ism identifies "the act, state, or theory of," and so feminism addresses itself to the condition of women. Just because the term denotes the subject of its inquiry doesn't mean only women can participate in it and that men are excluded, and more than criticism excludes all but critics.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:36 PM on November 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Even though the birth lottery bestowed me with parents and genes that granted me default membership in my culture's dominant sex, dominant "gender", dominant "race", and a reasonably respected sect of its dominant religion (domini domini domini), I nevertheless try to comport to the radical notion that humans are people.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that it takes a lot of effort - and I mean a lot of effort - to really do that right. I'm not talking about intellectually accepting the ideal of equality. That was part of my out-of-the-box default settings, which thankfully did not get meddled with terribly, so I never had any conscious idea that things should be otherwise. But the rabbit hole goes far deeper than that. In fact, there's an entire warren down there. It's extensive, convoluted, and labyrinthine. And it comprises a great deal of our subconscious architecture. That whole internalization thing...we are all deeply affected. Humans are porous to culture.

Incidentally, the ongoing sub-thread about whether feminism needs a makeover so that more men can stand to be seen with it is disgusting exactly what I'm talking about.
posted by perspicio at 2:39 PM on November 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


Yes, exactly. This is why I don't call myself a feminist even though women are equals is "well duh!"

For me, the term "feminist" seems kind of orthogonal to my life. I've never met a guy who described himself explicitly as a feminist that didn't strike me as a bit "off" in one way or another, but that's also a very small sample. The idea that feminism needs to a more benign and less-threatening renaming because of the men who find it offputting strikes me as a bad idea and counterproductive.

Is it because I was a teenager in the early 70s, during the flowering of what was referred to as "Women's Liberation", that I never had any difficulty with thinking of myself as a feminist, or as female?

I'm younger than you, but I grew up with a mother and aunts who described themselves as feminists, always had girlfriends who called themselves feminists, and am now married to someone who is totally comfortable with that self-identification. So yeah, I sometimes it's more in the air around a person, and sometimes it's more something that has to be approached and discovered. Maybe that's partly a historical moment, but I'll bet it's also about friends, family, and the books you read.

I wasn't surprised when I got to the part of the essay where she talked about working in the games industry. Everything I read about gender and gaming is just horrific; something about the anonymity of online communication and the dynamics of gaming combine into the "I'll pee in your butt!" comments she describes.
posted by Forktine at 2:47 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


This was pretty interesting. While I was reading the Jenn Frank post, it occurred to me that male-dominated geek culture rejects stereotypical femininity because they see it as superficial, image-obsessed, status-seeking, infantilized, etc. But lots of feminists feel the same way. Without overemphasizing this comparison, it's easy to see how the feminist critique of Barbie dolls would somehow resonate with geek culture.

If you were a woman who grew up with that kind of femininity, you could easily end up with a "I'm not one of those girls" attitude, which is (at least potentially) proto-feminist. And when you have 41,000 girls who resonate with that message, it seems a little bit more ambiguous that just internalized sexism. Some girls may have grown up with fathers who encouraged them to cross traditional gender lines -- play sports, learn about science and math, excel academically and have a career -- but their mothers and other female family members expected them to be much more feminine.

If that was your experience with gender roles, then you could easily feel that male culture is more egalitarian and gender-blind than female culture. And maybe there is a grain of truth to that. Feminism was (reasonably) successful at opening up male-dominated arenas so that women could be included. But there was no parallel effort making female-dominated arenas more friendly to men.

So doesn't that mean that traditionally-male arenas are the first to become more egalitarian, mixed-gender, progressive and closer to the feminist ideal than "girly" things like motherhood, cooking, fashion, beauty, etc.? I'm not saying that it's all perfect by any means, but when I think about where my daughters are likely to experience more rigid patriarchal gender expectations, at this point, it's probably more likely to be at the hair salon than in the school science lab or soccer field.

The one major exception is probably around computers, which has become more male-dominated and patriarchal over the last 30 years.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:49 PM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Incidentally, the ongoing sub-thread about whether feminism needs a makeover so that more men can stand to be seen with it is disgusting exactly what I'm talking about.

Yes, and this kind of calumny, bad-faith misrepresentation, and branding people genuinely asking questions as "disgusting" is exactly what I'm talking about.

I'm sure it feels great telling someone they're immoral for asking the wrong questions, but it doesn't really move the dialogue forward, or the movement. bwisburn is entitled to feel what he feels, and I think your characterisation of his opinions and feelings is unfair and condescending. You can disagree with the argument, as I do, but calling it disgusting is, ironically, the kind of 'with us or against' mentality he seems to be railing against.
posted by smoke at 3:40 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am also stocking up my Instapaper with these. Great post, flex.

I did the "I'm not like those other girls!" thing as a teenager, and as a young-ish woman. It is not my proudest feminist moment, but it was also a useful revelation; it was the first time I really saw that stereotypes weren't just inaccurate, but serving a particular role in a power dynamic that wasn't going to be my friend even if I played along.

But it is toxically insidious, this. It comes back in other forms.

I'm getting married soon, and planning a wedding has... not been fun. I haven't been picturing this day my whole life, I don't have a Dream Dress, I don't care about colour schemes and seatcovers and ugh whatever else. But because everyone knows that women love weddings, there's this constant stream of half-joky, half-serious comments in the vein of "it's the bride's day, the groom's just along for the ride" and "what have you always pictured for your big day, flower-wise?" and "make sure he does some of the planning, haha!" and (if you disagree with anyone about anything) "don't go all Bridezilla on us!" until you want to scream, that's not me! I'm not a Bridezilla! I don't even care about flowers! I'm not like the other girls!

....and then you think, waaaaaait a minute. I've been here before.

So, reflecting on it: well, first, the Bridezilla thing is not accurate for the vast, vast majority of women getting married. Maybe there are 0.0002% who go off the rails and start disowning family members for wearing the wrong shade of lavender, but the rest are usually just trying to plan a large complicated social event while dealing with budgets and families and timescales and juggling the various wishes and desires of everyone involved, however well or ineptly. Even for the people who have pictured this their whole lives, much of the actual planning work does not lend itself to stereotypical Bridezilla-ness anyway; it's hard to get all My Special Princess Extravaganza! about giving driving directions or writing a cheque for the photographer. "Ooooh, I've been dreaming about setting up an Excel document for expenses since I was a little girl!" I mean, come on.

But if you go beyond 'this is inaccurate for me' to 'this is inaccurate in general' to 'this is serving a purpose', then it starts looking different, and it starts saying different things. Like that wedding planning is not work, it's just fun and games and dress-up; or that caring about any of the details of a wedding is inherently frivolous and superficial; or that getting married is a female thing that men just apathetically go along with; or that women planning weddings are always one small step away from going total Bridezilla, and it's therefore the job of every right-thinking person around them to remind them that their wedding isn't All About Them any time they express a clear preference that is not to someone else's desire. Because after all, that clear preference can't be something meaningful, or something they and their partner both want, or something done to keep some other sector of friends and relatives happy - it's all about Princess's Special Day.

So we end up with this weird result, where we believe that women are the ones who are meant to shoulder the majority of the wedding-planning work while also believing they a) really love it and b) are controlling and superficial for doing so. The personal is political, same as it ever was. And still, I caught myself falling into that old "but I'm different!" trap all over again.
posted by Catseye at 3:56 PM on November 18, 2012 [44 favorites]


I don't like most game reviews but I really liked this one by Jenn Frank, and now I want to try the "adorable" Diablo III where "everything is so Lilliputian, so intricate and charming" and where I too may "swoon with delight over [the character Jaelyn's] teensy-tiny struggles and even her tiny deaths."
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:58 PM on November 18, 2012


My philosophy for this thread is called FIAKR (Favorite It and Keep Reading).
posted by Apropos of Something at 4:12 PM on November 18, 2012


Catseye, my partner and I aren't married, but we found a lot of what you speak about came up -for both of us, with both genders - when we had our baby. I had said it, and believed it before, but the whole experience was a very sharp reminder for both of us how patriarchy hurts everyone.

These quite ritualised aspects of our lives bring up a lot of subconscious attitudes that you never really need to interrogate until they are suffocating you and everyone around you. Stay strong!
posted by smoke at 4:14 PM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


> and this kind of calumny, bad-faith misrepresentation, and branding people genuinely asking questions as "disgusting" is exactly what I'm talking about.

You know, I knew it was a poor word to choose when I first put it in, so I struck it out (but obviously still chose to leave it in)...and after I posted, I sat through the entire next 5 minutes deliberating, but ultimately not editing it out because, even though it was wrong, I wanted my initial reaction to be left on the record. (Plus, that's not really what the Edit pony is for, at least as I understand it.)

I guess it just seemed apropos somehow to me. You know, the being wrong, and knowing it, and correcting it...but not hiding it. But in retro-retrospect, yeah, still less than ideal. Waaaay too open to misinterpretation.

So, for clarity:

I absolutely am not saying that anyone has behaved immorally in this thread. Nor did I single anybody out for their specific views, and I apologize to anybody who took it that way. In truth, it's not the view itself that I was talking about. You can believe me or not, but that is the honest truth.

What I was targeting was the propensity that we all have, as humans - the very one to which I was saying we are all susceptible - of engaging in a behavior without knowing it, even (as in this instance) while being sincerely opposed to it in principle.

The irony of discussing "rebranding" feminism to make it more appealing because some people might feel left out makes my brain go Möbius.

I would just like to drive home the point that just identifying a thing, even a purely mental thing, about ourselves is not sufficient to change it. It requires that lot of effort I mentioned earlier.

And I do not exempt myself.

And hopefully that'll be the end of that.

But probably not.

posted by perspicio at 4:24 PM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the clarification, perspicio. I totally get what you mean and agree with you.
posted by smoke at 4:28 PM on November 18, 2012


Thanks so much for posting this, and for this conversation.

There are so many experiences and memories and reactions swirling through my head right now:
My dad legitimately using the word "Feminazi" throughout my childhood

Preferring guys as friends in junior high/high school because by excluding myself from girl culture at my school, I thought I could sidestep it entirely

Going to a women's college and being told I "wasn't a good feminist" because I kissed a girl and decided I wasn't a lesbian, after all

Hearing a male professor state that he was a feminist and doing a double-take

Being told we shouldn't mention that our newly-founded company was female-owned because "people might get the wrong idea about your skill level"

Telling my 16-year-old mentee I'm a feminist and her reaction: "You mean you hate guys?!"

Publishing a book about female authors and being told it was regretful that I hadn't chosen a better topic since everyone knows guys won't read books written by women

At a reading for said book, being asked why I didn't write a book about heroes of literature instead of heroines. When I replied that I felt enough ink had been spilled on literary heroes and besides, I probably wouldn't even write a great book about them, the person walked out of the room mid-sentence.
posted by mynameisluka at 4:32 PM on November 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


I met my first boyfriend there. Soon after we first became friends but before we began dating, he announced matter-of-factly that girls were no good at quizzes (the trivia sort), something I was very much into. I was incensed, and slapped him across the face. He was very angry but was restrained from any sort of retaliation by another guy friend, who told him that he had after all been rather provocative. The next day he came up to me and apologized.... I accepted his apology and we became closer friends after that.

Did you apologize for slapping him in the face? He'd given you reason to be very angry, of course, but hitting people is every bit as wrong as making a statement like his, if not worse.
posted by orange swan at 4:39 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't even know what to say other than "This. This, this, this." Great post, flex.

Even when I went to an all-engineering college I still referred to "the pretty girls" on campus, those girls I was nothing like, as I donned my cargo pants and played Halo with all my (of course) guy friends. Fast forward seven years later, I'm only very slowly building friendships with a lot of those women as we figure out how much we need each other for support and sanity checks in the highly sexist "real world". I regret how much I was intimidated by them and thus dismissed them, and that it's taken me so long to start building up a network of awesome women. We shoot ourselves in the foot doing this.

And serious "YES OH GOD YES" to Catseye on the wedding planning thing.
posted by olinerd at 5:29 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Did you apologize for slapping him in the face? He'd given you reason to be very angry, of course, but hitting people is every bit as wrong as making a statement like his, if not worse.
Yes, I did. You're right of course, not exactly my proudest moment, but just something I remember for how angry I was and how unexpected it was to hear someone say that.
posted by peacheater at 5:33 PM on November 18, 2012


Excellent post.
posted by maxwelton at 6:08 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Feminism cannot be rebranded, never mind whether it would be a good idea. This is because the word "feminism" is, unto itself, a brand.

It represents a variety of philosophies, ideologies, and social movements. Those all need names of some kind. If their names don't have the word "feminism" in, they can still be a part of feminism, or overlap, and there's no issue. Off the top of my head, these all fit the bill: "Pro-choice"; "Sex-positivity"; "Social justice".

If you "rebrand" feminism, that means you've made a new brand that refers to some or all of the same things as the old one. There are already as many feminisms as feminists, so the only way to achieve feature-parity between feminism and whatever comes next would be to simultaneously convince all of them to use the new brand the way you want them to. Enormous corporations have trouble paying people to make that happen.

It might not be a bad idea to start your new school of social action, significantly inspired by feminism, and call it something else entirely. It would be a terrible idea to make established feminist institutions change their label. That's the sort of thing people do when labels are stigmatized, yes, but when you change a label you don't get to pick which connotations to keep and which to leave; so your target audience is likely to stop noticing your existence.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:51 PM on November 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


In several previous Metafilter threads, I've accused various feminists of "crying wolf," because I firmly believe that we each all have our own struggles, and it's a meaningless exercise to try to compare or quantify them. I mean... it probably really is frustrating to Mitt Romney when his car elevator malfunctions....

I've also been fortunate enough to live and work in an environment where men and women are more or less treated equally, and most lingering inequality is largely a historical artifact that will gradually be corrected with time. Also, 'reverse' sexism is still sexism, and it gets introduced to those threads way too often – it's grating and ineffective to launch a blanket attack against a group of people, when that group includes half the population, many of whom are totally on your side.

Then, last month, I went to Las Vegas for the first time. Holy shit – I really have been sheltered.

Ladies: Please keep doing the feminism thing, and if at all possible, please do it louder, and please mercilessly attack anybody who dares to contradict you. There are clearly places where we seriously need it.
posted by schmod at 7:23 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Then, last month, I went to Las Vegas for the first time. Holy shit – I really have been sheltered.

Can you elaborate on this? It's not immediately clear to me how this trip opened your eyes on gender inequality.

Also -

Ladies: Please keep doing the feminism thing

There has been some discussion in this thread how everyone needs to do the feminism thing and should feel included, not just ladies.
posted by sweetkid at 7:35 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've also been fortunate enough to live and work in an environment where men and women are more or less treated equally, and most lingering inequality is largely a historical artifact that will gradually be corrected with time.

Do you still work where you used to work? Because if so I would beg to differ.
posted by naoko at 7:43 PM on November 18, 2012


I mistakenly read that as
I've also been fortunate enough to live and work in an environment where men and women are more or less treated equally, and most lingerie inequality is largely a historical artifact that will gradually be corrected with time.
I suppose says something significant about me, but I'm not sure what.
posted by perspicio at 7:56 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The idea that feminism needs to a more benign and less-threatening renaming because of the men who find it offputting strikes me as a bad idea and counterproductive.

I'm not worried about the menz, but a huge proportion of young women don't like the term, and that's the real problem.

Then again, I feel like discussions of gender issues are already way too concerned with the correct naming of things, and challenging everyone's perceptions, even (especially?) those of "allies" who are always somehow doing it wrong. All this perceptual stuff is very slippery and hard to pin down.

Democrats have had the most success when pushing very tangible proposals -- family leave act, Lilly Ledbetter, contraception coverage -- and these have also flushed out a lot of real cretins, like Team Rape. I'd love to see more. What about reintroducing the Equal Rights Amendment? I'd love to see Paul Ryan justify opposing that.
posted by msalt at 8:40 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find it hard to agree with anything written here.

There is no 'doing the feminism thing'. I wish there was. There isn't.

Only solipsism.

Fortunately the article about diablo 3 is great.
posted by flyinghamster at 9:01 PM on November 18, 2012


a huge proportion of young women don't like the term, and that's the real problem.

As I've said in other threads, this was true when I was in high school and college too...twenty years ago.

Is it really a problem? Or is what many women are objecting to not really the term?
posted by Miko at 9:19 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


“I just don’t get along with women. All of my best friends have been guys.”
ohgodIdothis

In the military. In a computer field. Lucky if there's even one other woman in the shop. Lucky if I get along with her (sometimes, yeah, it's that our personalities or work ethics clash). But at this point, I can say I haven't hung out with any other women, whether in a group or one-on-one, for the past 3 years, and only once in a blue moon before that.

It doesn't help that I feel so incredibly awkward talking to other women. I'll say something that I think is normal or matter-of-fact or politely-praising-in-their-choice-of-clothes and they look at me weird. Or, after a chance meeting, they say at some point in conversation "I hate all the drama" and then have one-sided screaming war for 3 blocks with one of the guys I was hanging with, then doggedly pursue me for hang out time for weeks afterward, like I'd want to mess with THAT can of worms.

All of my chance and intentional interactions with possible-friends! women end in
1. suspicion, cursing, and dismissal, or
2. going out on shopping trips that eventually peter out because they become SO. INCREDIBLY. BORING.

......where are all of these cool, friendly, normal geek women at? I'm having trouble finding women who don't think it strange that I'm a birdwatching, nonTwilightreading, meh-about-gossip-and-about-sharing-my-personal-shit, mostly mall avoiding (or at least not in groups; I like shopping alone, thanks), general anime-and-computer-geekery inclined woman. Eh, so when I say the "I don't get along with other women", what I feel like I'm saying is "I've mostly just been accepted by men, and I just don't miss talking about clothes or makeup too much". *Awkward shrug*
posted by DisreputableDog at 9:26 PM on November 18, 2012


Inequality is corrected by people, not time.
posted by rtha at 9:41 PM on November 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


That reads a lot more snarky than I meant it to.

With more words, and I hope less snark: inequality is not a thing that just goes away by itself eventually, like a cold or something. It's something that people work against in large ways and small, on a daily basis. It's happening in this thread and it happens in national lawmaking bodies and it happens in classrooms and homes. It is always a thing that requires work and thought and deliberate action. It doesn't always have to be a big thing that involves fights and struggles and bad feelings, but it is work, and we should be mindful of that, even in comments on the Internet.
posted by rtha at 9:50 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


In retrospect, I imagine there's the same safety for guys who hang with the girls. You lose status for not ranking high in your own gender social hierarchy, but you protect at least SOME status by refusing to care about your gender's hierarchy.

Yes to this. I put in a lifetime's worth of the sports minutiae talk and the car talk and the macho posturing and then enough was enough. The break came somewhere in early high school and it cost me, but in retrospect, wish I'd done it sooner.

I don't see it as gender-bashing, anymore than rolling your eyes at the most culture-mandated extremes of femininity is. But women seem to be caught up in a moment of "can't criticize anything feminine", so it was a bit excruciating, just to cite one example, to read a Game of Thrones thread on the blue where people were at pains to observe that Arya is no "better" than Sansa (in any way), essentially because they were each models for a different (but not better!) way of performing gender. And anything wrong with one portrayal was on Martin, not on those choices.

that's a pretty limited reading of the -ism suffix

One phrase: "and our male allies". Because they're allies, not feminists, right?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:51 PM on November 18, 2012


I'm having trouble finding women who don't think it strange that I'm a birdwatching, nonTwilightreading, meh-about-gossip-and-about-sharing-my-personal-shit, mostly mall avoiding (or at least not in groups; I like shopping alone, thanks), general anime-and-computer-geekery inclined woman. Eh, so when I say the "I don't get along with other women", what I feel like I'm saying is "I've mostly just been accepted by men, and I just don't miss talking about clothes or makeup too much". *Awkward shrug*

Did you read any of the links? You might find them enlightening.
posted by murfed13 at 9:53 PM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


CORRECTION: Put up with, not put in. There was none of the above from me.

Also, nothing wrong with "female" as an adjective, as "woman reporter" is a hideous, awful misuse of the language. But yes, "female" as a noun seems a little... off.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:01 PM on November 18, 2012


DisreputableDog, I'm a birdwatching woman who doesn't give a shit about Twilight or fashion and I hate shopping and I don't know anything about anime but I like techy things though I don't always have deep knowledge (I'm a raven: Oooh, shiny!). I know a lot of women like me. Maybe your sample is borked? Maybe it's an age thing: we're in our 30s and up. Maybe it's also a queer thing. I certainly have friends who love clothes and fashion (and I guess I have to correct myself here because I have, what, an aesthetic appreciation, though I'm happiest in jeans and tshirts), but they don't think I'm a freak because I don't care that much.
posted by rtha at 10:22 PM on November 18, 2012


One phrase: "and our male allies". Because they're allies, not feminists, right?

Well, it isn't like that's universally-supported language. It wouldn't surprise me if it was (at least some of the time it gets used) a bit of a brain-fart carryover from other forms of activism ('queers and our allies' makes perfect sense, after all) without the implications necessarily being thought through. Then again, maybe that's wishful thinking. Certainly, all the local-to-me feminist groups are open to all genders, and men calling themselves feminists is a long way from being controversial. At the very least, it's not like there's a widespread consensus that feminism as a term excludes men.
posted by Dysk at 12:33 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Since last night snippets from my life have been running through my head. In no particular order, and kind of jumbled up:

High school writing class in Pakistan: For a Women's Day assignment, had asked my (all girls) class to choose some Pakistani woman who was well-known in her own right. I remember distinctly my disappointment that in most cases, the women were well-known for doing "women's work" (running a big charity) or were well-known because they were "the first woman" or "the only woman" in predominantly male fields. Not one example was a woman who had done something "objectively cool." And one of my students took me to task. "But Ms bardophile, when there aren't women in those fields it IS a big achievement to be the first one to make it." And while I acknowledge the truth in that, I can't deny that I'm still disappointed.

Realizing that I have a huge respect advantage relative to other Pakistani women, just by virtue of being tall, and having a somewhat low-pitched voice. Always played male roles in school and college plays (all-girls institutions). I've had short hair most of my life, although sometimes I'll grow it out really long. In the past few years I've come to the conclusion that people treat me markedly different when my hair is long, and that I'd rather they were intimidated than condescending. Yet another "no, I'm not one of THOSE girls" thing.

An aunt pointed out to teenage me: "You know, everyone calls you a tomboy, but really, you're not. You just like wearing jeans and having short hair." And I was DEEPLY offended. Although I think now that she had hit on a kernel of important truth there. Primarily, I was not interested in the trappings of femininity (Lace, ugh, prickly. Long hair, too much care required. Heels, seriously, how stupid are they? What if you have to run for some reason? Lipstick/makeup? Too much hassle, makes you too sweaty).

Hearing about how one of my uncles had sat down his youngest daughter, who must have been getting close to puberty at the time, and "explained" to her that a) God had made her a girl, b) boys and girls, men and women, had different roles in the world, and c) (for me, this was the kicker) even if you preferred the role of the boy, it was best to make peace with the fact that God had made you a girl, and to behave like a girl. Now understand, this was a loving father, trying to save a much-loved daughter from a lot of grief. I knew about this in part because when my mother asked this cousin, shortly thereafter "So, what are you up to these days?" her answer was "Trying to become a girl." My grief over this is unabated more than twenty years later, my rage at the sense of futility of straining against immutable bonds. My total refusal to believe, with every fibre of my being, that this could possibly be true.

The thing is that when you are struggling to form a sense of who you are, an important part of that is who you are not. And so, if you can't identify with "all the things" that make women "womanly," then you struggle to name the space that you occupy. And a lot of times, because that in-between space is not regarded as legitimate (the woman who loves vapid Schwarzenegger movies AND cars AND fluffy rom-coms AND futzing with hi-fi equipment AND Jane Austen AND laughs loud AND would rather talk about politics than celebrity gossip AND can't STAND dressing in traditionally feminine ways, except for loving jewelry), you drift towards the "side" that can more comfortably accommodate more of you.

And the disdain for more visibly traditionally feminine women? It's mostly defensive. This is just speaking for myself, of course. Because those are the areas in which I have most often been found lacking. My lack of interest in being visibly, conventionally feminine, which WAS mostly an aesthetic preference, gradually, defensively, morphed into an insistence on the superiority of my preferences. That this defensive posture aligned me with millennia of misogyny, and blinded me to the way that many visibly traditional women often live incredibly non-gender-typical lives, is something that I am still coming to terms with.
posted by bardophile at 1:55 AM on November 19, 2012 [18 favorites]


Thank you bardophile.


This conversation has a cultural context. When our images and roles of "being female" are so immersed in our patriarchal South Asian cultures, needing to rebel like this is almost a default of breaking out of purdah.
posted by infini at 6:35 AM on November 19, 2012


This looks like an amazing post, which I don't have time for now, but one to which I will definitely return.

As I grow older, the more I see that feminism is innately intertwined with gay rights, and the fate of one group almost always goes along with the fate of the other. At the same time, I'm always deeply conflicted by mainstream feminist philosophy's failure to deal with womens' ongoing collusion with the extreme end of female behaviour (fashion, sex work, exclusive motherhood). By now I've reached the conclusion that we need to meet these impulses head on, and the only way to deal with it is to stop defining gender roles/presentation in terms of biology, and start giving more dolls and makeup to little boys.

Unfortunately, I haven't yet seen much of this written down. Maybe some of the above links will help me.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 6:40 AM on November 19, 2012


I'm having trouble finding women who don't think it strange that I'm a birdwatching, nonTwilightreading, meh-about-gossip-and-about-sharing-my-personal-shit, mostly mall avoiding (or at least not in groups; I like shopping alone, thanks), general anime-and-computer-geekery inclined woman. Eh, so when I say the "I don't get along with other women", what I feel like I'm saying is "I've mostly just been accepted by men, and I just don't miss talking about clothes or makeup too much". *Awkward shrug*

I'm not into Twilight or the mall, and I have occasionally been birdwatching - maybe we'd get along! I think if you reread all the comments above, you'll notice that there are a lot of women who mostly like "guy" things, or who like a mix of "guy" things and "girl" things. Or if you take another look at the Claudia Gray link that talks about 41,000 girls on Tumblr liking an "I'm not like other girls" quotation that references being more into computers than shopping - the irony there is pretty amazing (I am not like other girls, except for the 41,000 other girls that it turns out I am just like). Even if we were to accept unquestioningly that Twilight and shopping suck (as I talked about above, this is the part that I am perhaps guilty of and am still wrestling with philosophically), there is pretty clear evidence that there are loads of women in the world with whom someone like you or I is going to have a lot in common, and there's a danger of writing other women off too easily. Which is not to say that you have done so - there are certainly going to be places/jobs/whatever where you meet more or fewer people with certain interests.

You mentioned that you are (or have been?) in the military. While there's a popular conception of military women as being into "guy" stuff, my (very vague) impression is that military culture shapes gender performance in ways that are more complicated and subtle than that. I'd be interested to hear your perspective.
posted by naoko at 8:39 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hear the critique "It should be called equalism not feminism" a lot, and more and more I think it's similar to the "he is neutral, so just use it" and being colorblind - it's about extolling equality as a way of brushing over the remaining cultural inequalities and taking conscious discrimination and making it unconscious. Feminism is called feminism because what is discounted gender-wise is the feminine; the soft, the gentle, the nurturing, the colorful, the collective, the sacrificing. One of the issues with feminism as it's grown up has been is embrace of the hard, the strong, the competitive, the neutral, the individual, and the self-nurturing at the expense of those other things, instead of in addition to those things.

Feminism operates at two levels; at one of them it's about increasing individual choices, allowing women in particular but men as well to express who they are as individuals before who they are as gendered beings. On the second level it's about elevating qualities and characteristics that are discounted and underpaid, making our being a collective species that takes care of each other as important as our being an individualized species that seeks unique self-expression.

For the first, maybe you could use "equalism" and have it be meaningful, but I wouldn't count on it because so far there isn't a widespread men's movement embracing the feminine virtues; the most vocal men's movement is doubling down on masculine virtues while blaming all of the negative consequences of them on feminists. The movement to broaden men's self-expression is actually primarily happening through the male gay movement and things like being "metrosexual", which brings serious homophobia into play as a weapon against men broadening their accepted territory.

I support and love the men who do this work, but it's not work I can do as a woman - especially since one of the feminine values I'm working to put into balance is that of helping others; women are largely expected to do the "emotional work" for men, so part of men moving into equality is their doing their own emotional work instead of waiting for women to do it for them. I know there are men doing this now, individually, and eventually it will probably become a movement because these are strong, wonderful men, but it is a movement I can only be an ally to.

I think the reverse is not true because one of the qualities of masculinity is individuality and distance, along with not doing emotional and social "work", so men who step into feminism and begin to work through it are actually stepping outside of their own gender-essentialism already, and so advancing feminist goals. The qualities on display are important, though, and I think people often want "rules" which can be stripped of their context as to how to behave - but the "rules" are inherent to the context, and the context (and individual demographics) matter when you're talking about what happens. There isn't some Platonic Ideal we can identify and act according to; this is the messy, interactive bit of being alive.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:27 PM on November 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


smoke: "Catseye, my partner and I aren't married, but we found a lot of what you speak about came up -for both of us, with both genders - when we had our baby. I had said it, and believed it before, but the whole experience was a very sharp reminder for both of us how patriarchy hurts everyone.
"

True story: while in childbirth classes, at one point, they separated the men and women, so the women could watch some horrible c-section movie, and the men could learn how to diaper a baby. And I raised my hand and said; "Um, I'd like to know how to diaper a baby, please." And everyone looked at me like I was an alien. I'd managed to make it into my 30s without having to diaper a baby...and apparently, that was really, really, really outside of the norm for that crowd.
posted by dejah420 at 7:52 AM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I've never diapered a baby and I'm 34.
posted by sweetkid at 7:56 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have diapered a puppy as well as a full-grown dog. I assume it is pretty much the same to do it to a human except with less face-licking and tail-wagging.
posted by elizardbits at 8:14 AM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


There is more use of opposable thumbs and tearful declarations that "I don't like diaper anymore!"
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:48 AM on November 20, 2012


"As I grow older, the more I see that feminism is innately intertwined with gay rights, and the fate of one group almost always goes along with the fate of the other."

A real fundamental part of why I do LGBT advocacy work is that I see it as part of feminism.

(Which leads me to a place in the coms department where often I think I see our work as broader than some of the other folks do there — I think that feminist critiques of gender roles underpin a lot of the work that we do, and I'm more likely to, say, post explicitly feminist but not obviously LGBT things to our facebook page. The other folks there aren't as much into feminism as I am, necessarily, though they live a lot more of it.)

Also, Hi Forktine — I'm a straight white guy who's identified as "feminist" at least since high school. I'm a little off, sure, but I don't think in the way you mean.
posted by klangklangston at 7:42 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thanks for reading this, everybody. I'm still working out my opinions too. —author of first link
posted by jennanemone at 6:19 PM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


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