Great piece. Totally recommended:
…[C]alls for strong female characters start to run into trouble with trans women, nonwhite women, and women of colour in pop culture. Because women in all three of these categories are automatically expected to be strong. It is, in fact, part of their characterisation. Trans women are frequently framed as secret men (ah!) and thus can be expected to display physical strength and emotional toughness, because it’s part of the game the creator wants to play with you. These women aren’t ‘real women,’ because they’re strong. Those masculine traits aren’t empowering, in this case, aren’t an affirmation that girls can do anything. Just the opposite. They are dehumanising and violent. They are a reminder to viewers that trans women are not real because they are really, at heart, masculine. Yet, to depict them as emotionally vulnerable, even fragile, is to play into other stereotypes about women, leaving them in a double bind; they cannot be strong, they cannot be weak. They cannot exist.
Women of colour and nonwhite women have also been subjected to the physically strong, solemn or stoic archetype since time immemorial. When pop culture bothers to include them at all, they are often heavily masculinised. Loud. Oversexed. Spicy. Overwhelming in their physicality. Or, on the flip side of things, especially for Asian women, meek and submissive; objects of sexual fetish. Bodies inherently charged with sexuality that are treated as objects in pop culture narratives. Do we need more ‘strong female characters’ when it comes to women of colour, in a media that repeatedly reiterates stereotypes about stoic, unemotional, physically strong Black women, for example?
…[W]hat people are usually talking about when they talk about the need for ‘strong female characters’ is white cis women, specifically. [….] “…you have to be assumed weak in the first place for it to be groundbreaking.”
This whole piece is amazing and totally rings true for me. Men generally tend to be intimidated and/or intrigued by my intelligence and education. They react either by not even attempting to ask me out or trying to somehow domesticate me, i.e. involving me in long, exhausting debates in order to prove that I’m not that smart.
What I’m actually used to men doing is attacking me once they start intellectual fights they can’t finish. I’m used to men putting me in the friend zone because they find my smarts intriguing but not sexy. I’m used to men straight up belittling and insulting me—calling me stupid, unattractive, or using “feminist” like an expletive—in order to get the upper hand when they feel intellectually outmatched.
….Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, will soon celebrate its 20th birthday, and a major motion picture is in the works [downlo: UGH]. The book….argues that men and women have different emotional needs, and that misunderstandings between the sexes are the result. Its significant impact is evident in the hundreds of self-help books that claim to enable men and women address these gender differences; the dozens of business schools that provide courses on gender differences in leadership styles; and the growth of single sex schools with the premise that boys and girls need different learning environments.
Yet a growing group of scientists, including neuroscientists, primatologists, evolutionary anthropologists, and developmental psychologists, are revealing that the premise of these books, courses, and schools is just plain wrong. Boys and men, it turns out, have the same emotional and social capacities and needs as girls and women. According to this research, the core of our humanity rests with our empathic, social, and cooperative nature. Caring deeply about other people and want to have close relationships is precisely why we have thrived as a species. Even Charles Darwin knew this. Furthermore, researchers have repeatedly concluded that gender differences in social-emotional and cognitive skills have been greatly exaggerated. It is only with age that we begin to see differences (although still only small ones), underscoring the role of culture in creating such differences.
Boys’ reports of male friendships during early and middle adolescence are more reminiscent of Love Story than Lord of the Flies. Yet as boys reach manhood, they begin to lose their closest male friends and become less willing to be emotionally vulnerable because they associate these qualities with being female or gay. They also become more isolated and lonely.
…[S]tudies….reveal that boys do not start out being less empathic and emotional than girls. They become this way as a result of growing up in a culture where emotions are associated with being female and gay and thus devalued. The prevalence of bullying in our schools – often directed at boys who are labeled girly and gay because of their emotional sensitivity – speaks to the dire consequences of equating basic human capacities with, and devaluing, a sex and sexuality.
….If we took the scientific findings seriously, we would know that being emotionally sensitive, empathic, or wanting close relationships is key to thriving at home, in school, and in the workplace.
In a new study published in The Journal of Applied Social Psychology, psychologists Kristin J. Anderson and Melinda Kanner explored undergraduate students’ evaluations of lesbian, gay, and heterosexual professors of a hypothetical course, Psychology of Human Sexuality. They provided students with a syllabus of the course, providing biographical information about the hypothetical professor including political ideology, gender, and sexual identity. The researchers also varied whether the syllabus had typographical errors. They examined whether students would differ in their evaluations of the lesbian/gay and heterosexual professors, especially in terms of whether the professor was politically biased.
The researchers found that lesbian and gay professors were viewed as politically biased, while heterosexual professors with the exact same syllabus were viewed as objective. On average, lesbian/gay professors were rated more harshly, and students pointed to political bias and typographical errors (typos) on the syllabus as their main reason for the negative evaluation. However, heterosexual professors were not negatively evaluated for political bias and typographical errors.
The findings of this study are similar to past research that has already indicated that professors who are women and racial and ethnic minorities are rated more harshly by students and often presumed to be biased. White heterosexual men, on the other hand, are presumed to be objective and unbiased, and they are less likely to be challenged by students. Whereas students’ evaluations of professors are used to make hiring and promotion decisions for professors, students’ relatively harsh evaluations of minority professors (including women, people of color, and sexual minorities) can unfairly hurt the careers of these groups of professors…
…did you ever notice that almost all of the slurs aimed at men in middle school translate roughly into “woman”? Consider:
There is not a similar set of slurs denigrating women by calling them names that translate roughly into “man.” In fact, in some instances, being told you are like a man is one of the best compliments a woman can recieve (i.e., sports).
So, sure enough, we live in a society where “woman” is an insult. I can’t imagine what more proof of sexism a person might need.
— Lisa Wade, 'Woman' as an Insult
I love how the introductory section of the section on the psychology and behavior of stalkers is mostly an attempt to suggest that many victims of stalking lie about being stalked:
In the UK, for example, most so-called stalkers are ex-partners and evidence shows that the mentally ill stalking type of behaviour propagated in the media occurs in only a minority of cases of alleged stalking. As with sexual harassment law, it is very easy for false claims to be made or at least for the law to be broken as the law is so ill-defined, whether or not someone has been harassed has no objective definition and claims can be made arbitrarily. Compensation claims add another reason for false and malicious claims. A UK Home Office Research study on the use the 1997 Protection of Harassment Act (which is the UK stalking law) quotes “The study found that the Protection from Harassment Act is being used to deal with a variety of behaviour such as domestic and inter-neighbour disputes. It is rarely used for stalking as portrayed by the media since only a small minority of cases in the survey involved such behaviour.
But I’m fairly certain that if anyone went in and tried to alter the stalking article to make it less of an apology for stalkers, their corrections would be immediately marked for deletion. This is a common occurrence in controversial or political entries.
It’s shit like this Wiki article that makes it laughable when people refer you to things like dictionary definitions to prove their points. This may come as a shock, but the point of view of marginalized/oppressed groups (such as stalking victims) is rarely represented in mainstream reference resources. These days, Wikipedia almost counts as the latter. It’s disappointing—but perhaps unsurprising—that a novel experiment in crowd-sourcing a ‘people’s encyclopedia’ merely repeats many of the biases and distortions of the larger culture.
Today (June 17th) there is a demonstration in Saudi Arabia by women protesting for their right to drive. There is no actual law on the books denying Saudi women the right to drive, but social/religious oppression makes it de facto impossible for them to do so. There’s no public transportation either. Women caught behind the wheel can be arrested and will remain in jail until a male relative or friend can bail them out. The result of all this is that women’s mobility and freedom is severely restricted in Saudi Arabia. Hence, today’s protest.
However, I’d urge Saudi women out there to take care of themselves and each other. Your safety is just as important as resisting oppression. Remember: dead, severely injured, or incarcerated women can’t engage in political activity either. Protest, but take reasonable precautions given your particular circumstances. And remember that the world (the good bits, at least) stands in solidarity with you!
Recognizing and claiming what agency we have and respecting how it is limited by personal and social factors are two things we flatly have to do. —thehighshelf
I have to highlight this again. In my view, this is pretty much the best—and only—way for oppressed persons to negotiate their way through the potentially treacherous thicket of ‘choices’ offered them by kyriarchy/patriarchy. Agency isn’t just about making choices, but actively (re)framing your own actions, even if it’s only to justify them to yourself.
Choose your choice, if you must, but do your best to own your choices as your choices.
I know that women are trained to never say that we’ve done something because that is what we wanted to do (from the available options), but if we don’t reject that and claim what agency is available to us, we will end up repeatedly assisting in our own victimization. Recognizing and claiming what agency we have and respecting how it is limited by personal and social factors are two things we flatly have to do.
Pretending that we’re putting our daughters in bikinis because it’s the only thing that makes sense is, in isolation, a fairly low level of willful blindness to our choices. A far more important, critical I’d say, one is something I’ve seen tossed out every time the marriage/name change thing comes up. I have to say, my general reaction to that conversation is usually: Oh look, the straight people are fondling their VIP choices again, I can’t wait to hear what they have to say! Because I’m a bitch, and I don’t fucking care.
There is one response though that usually effects me for days, that I can’t tear my mind off of, that I think I can say to some degree literally hurts and scares me. I was abused by my father, so of course I will take my husband’s name.
When I was in my early 20s I seriously (gravely seriously) considered changing my last name for similar reasons. During that time, I met a friend who was in the process of changing her name for similar reasons. Literally the first time we hung out, for breakfast, she was on her way to file the papers for her last name change, later her sister did the same but chose to change only her first name (the one she’d heard her father say most often). Ultimately, I didn’t change my name; I couldn’t find one that l liked; I couldn’t find one that when I said it felt like I was even a little bit freer. I decided it was a better process for me to learn to see the name I had as my own, no one else’s, and go from there. Fifteen years later, all three of us are still satisfied with our decisions.
If you are a heterosexual woman who is certain of one day finding a man to marry and a name to take, that still isn’t your only option for recovery. You can change your name now, you can save yourself in at least a few ways, and you don’t have to wait. You might say that if you do so you will have to explain, that it will be difficult and awkward, and you are still embedded with abusive family. That’s all OK, because recovering your life from an abusive childhood is messy, and anyone who demands that you to do it cleanly is probably someone to move away from. But the thing is, part of becoming whole after that kind of childhood is admitting those things too. It’s being able to say, “I want to change my name in the most socially acceptable way possible, so that I don’t have to deal with anymore of their shit than I do right now.” That is a reasonable choice to make.
To define that as something other than a choice you are making is to risk remaining a victimized child, one who is waiting for a rescuer, and still not realizing that you are the person who will save you from that history. We move away from the ugliness of our childhoods through acts of acknowledged agency. Our options are limited by the world, and by our own abilities, which shift as much as the world around us, and what we can do one day sometimes isn’t there the next. But even if we can’t make the best choices for ourselves, or even recognize our agency, it’s extremely important that we stop actively burying our own agency.
Emphasis added. As usual, thehighshelf hits it square on the head.
There has been quite a few discussion on why telling someone to be safe, and avoid getting themselves in bad situation, is NOT victim blaming.
Sit down and listen.
This is still victim blaming. You are still perpetuating Rape Culture.
I have to make this distinction clear: there is a difference between sex and rape. There is a difference between having sex and being raped. Rapists are not sluts. A slut (by society’s general definition) is someone who has consensual sex frequently. When a rapist is raping someone, they are not having sex with their victim… They are torturing them. Rape is a human rights violation and it is defined as a form of torture by International Criminal Courts.
There is this myth that rapists have this uncontrollable sex urge and this is why they rape. If you believe this, re-read my previous paragraph. And I would urge you to go read about Groths study on Rapists (1979) and several others!
He interviewed 500 men convicted of rape and found that:
- 55% of them were “power rapists” meaning rape was a demonstration of their power over their victim and a way of showing their hyper-masculinity
- 40% were “anger rapists”, and their aim was to humiliate their victims and hurt them for revenge
- 5% were classified as “sadistic rapists”, these men were sexually aroused by dominance and violence, and they took pleasure from their victims pain.
Groths study showed that rapists tended not to be sexually aroused either before, during or after the rape. This is why there are several incidences where the rapists had to obtain an erection by masturbation or forcing their victims to sexually arouse them. There is no “uncontrollable urge.” Rapists are not losing any power of themselves, they are gaining it.
Yet, a lot of people think they are helping by telling people not to avoid “risky behavior”
I just have to show you how impractical this is.
- In the UK fewer than 17% of rape are committed by strangers. And only 13 percent take place in a public space. Half of all female murder victims world- wide are killed by a current or former partner. And most rape victims KNOW THEIR ATTACKER.
Yet in the UK 54.4% of assaults reported in the press were committed by strangers and always in public.
- In America 73% of sexual assaults are committed by a non-stranger. 38% of rapists are friends or acquaintances of the victims. 28% are intimate partners of the victims. 7% are relatives of the victims. 6 in 10 rapes occur in the home of the victim, or in the home of a friend or relative of the victim.
Tell me how I am supposed to avoid risky behaviour in this instance. The “judgement prevents rape” argument falters in reality, at least 73% of the time.
These people were not in any RISKY BEHAVIOUR. There was no “deviant” person hiding behind the bushes ready to pounce. Stop reinforcing the idea that rapists are hiding in parking garages or in the often-called-upon “dark alley.” the assumption that rape, on the whole, happens when someone leaves a bar with a stranger. These rapes do happen, and are still entirely problematic, but they are not the norm.
As the statistics show, most victims know their rapist, and most rapes occur in a home setting. Statistically, you are more likely to be raped by your boyfriend or husband than you are by a stranger. So should I avoid having a boyfriend or a husband as this is more likely to get me raped?
I agree that people do act in the interest of their own safety, regardless of gender. We could say, “Stay out of that dark alley!” but you probably already are for the most part. Any of the things that we could think of suggesting had nothing to do with rape at all, but instead with protecting general personal safety, which is something people of both genders do already for the most part.
The idea that if you dress in sexy attire, you are making yourself more at risk is complete and utter bullshit. People are raped in sexy, going out ensembles, but they are also raped in sweatpants, baggy tee shirts, burqas, and suits. Dress does not imply consent, and historically rapists do not appear to put much thought into what a victim is wearing in deciding if they should rape them or not.
I’ve even seen arguments of people suggesting that women and girls should avoid hanging out unsupervised in all-male groups, or hanging out one-on-one with male friends. PLEASE TRY NOT TO TRIP OVER THAT LOW BAR YOU HAVE SET FOR ALL MEN. This argument is incredibly insulting to men. It implies that men have no moral compass that would incite them to stop one friend from raping another, and that they are entirely out of control of their ability to monitor their own behavior.
The first thing we need to be able to do if we want to have honest, open discussion about rape is challenge the assumptions we have about where rape happens and who commits it.
And when discussing Rape Culture, just ask yourself: Who feels more comfortable with my assertions? The rapists or the Rape Victim/Survivor?
“Recently, I was asked by someone in the audience of one of my speeches, whether or not I believed that racism—though certainly a problem—might also be something conjured up by people of color in situations where the charge was inappropriate. In other words, did I believe that occasionally folks play the so-called race card, as a ploy to gain sympathy or detract from their own shortcomings? In the process of his query, the questioner made his own opinion all too clear (an unambiguous yes), and in that, he was not alone, as indicated by the reaction of others in the crowd, as well as survey data confirming that the belief in black malingering about racism is nothing if not ubiquitous. It’s a question I’m asked often, and which I answered this time in much the same fashion as I have done previously: First, by noting that the regularity with which whites respond to charges of racism by calling said charges a ploy, suggests that the race card is, at best, equivalent to the two of diamonds. In other words, it’s not much of a card to play, calling into question why anyone would play it (as if it were really going to get them somewhere). Second, I pointed out that white reluctance to acknowledge racism isn’t new, and it isn’t something that manifests only in situations where the racial aspect of an incident is arguable. Fact is, whites have always doubted claims of racism at the time they were being made, no matter how strong the evidence, as will be seen below. Finally, I concluded by suggesting that whatever “card” claims of racism may prove to be for the black and brown, the denial card is far and away the trump, and whites play it regularly… Far from “playing the race card” at the drop of a hat, it is actually the case (again, according to scholarly investigation, as opposed to the conventional wisdom of the white public), that black and brown folks typically “stuff” their experiences with discrimination and racism, only making an allegation of such treatment after many, many incidents have transpired, about which they said nothing for fear of being ignored or attacked. Precisely because white denial has long trumped claims of racism, people of color tend to underreport their experiences with racial bias, rather than exaggerate them. Again, when it comes to playing a race card, it is more accurate to say that whites are the dealers with the loaded decks, shooting down any evidence of racism as little more than the fantasies of unhinged blacks, unwilling to take personal responsibility for their own problems in life.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told non-POCs about a racist experience only to be met with severe skepticism and rampant victim -blaming. And I’ve yet to share many of the worst instances.
The harasser’s conduct is odious, but he affects one person at a time. Making public comments deriding women who’ve made the difficult choice to say something public — to whatever degree — not only lend cover to that harasser but to all others, and contribute to a mass loss of freedom for any person who has had to deal with harassment. A small minority of men commit sexual harassment. The rest of us…make it possible for them to get away with it.
When the topic at hand is men not taking an issue seriously, suggesting that the issue might not really be all that serious is not being dispassionate. It is, in fact, taking a side. And the people on the side you’re taking, incidentally, include the gropers, the rapists, the sexual-favor-demanding bosses.
“How Not to Be an Asshole: A Guide for Men”, Chris Clarke.
Required reading for men.
This study, just published in the sociology journal, Gender and Society, examined gender representation in approximately 5,000 books published between 1900 and 2000. Researchers pulled titles from three main sources:
- Winners of the Caldecott Award (given for excellence in picture books)
- The Children’s Catalog (a broad spectrum reference book, once frequently used in library collection development)
- Little Golden Books (yep–you know the ones–sold mostly in grocery and drug stores)
For consistency’s sake, the researchers selected preschool-to-third-grade-level books from all three sources, then compared the gender of central characters. Male title characters outnumbered their female counterparts by a ratio of 2:1. Overall, males were central characters in 56.9 percent of the books; females, in only 30.8 percent.
Doesn’t add up to 100, you say? That’s where animals characters filled in the gap.
Unfortunately, the animals had their own gender issues: Of the gendered animals who were central characters, 23.2 percent were male, compared to only 7.5 percent who were female. Moreover, the authors noted previous research indicating that this gap may be compounded by readers’ tendency to impose a male identity on animals if their gender is unclear in the story.
Perhaps the biggest surprise however, was the lack of linear improvement for the second half of the century.