Archive | March, 2008

The deli down the street from my house has a sandwich called The Lewinsky.

30 Mar

The ingredients are, “chicken cutlet, melted mozzarella, tomato and our own secret sauce.” Guess what I don’t want to think about when ordering a sandwich? If you guessed semen, obnoxiously tired and hackneyed jokes, and juvenile sexism, you’d be right. I guess Bill Maher isn’t the only person in New York who doesn’t know that telling Clinton/Lewinsky jokes wasn’t funny in 1998, much less 2008.

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An honest banner ad

30 Mar
I was over at the IBTP message boards today and found this link, posted by phio gistic. Some of the fake banner ads are fairly funny, especially the one for Snorg Tees, but I thought the final one was worth posting here.

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Steers, queers, and underage strippers

28 Mar

What the hell is going on in Texas? I’ve never deigned to set foot in the state (actually, I’ve driven hundreds of miles out of my way to avoid it – call it principle), and now I think I know why. Some strip club in Dallas has allowed a SIXTH-GRADER to strip, got caught, and is STILL IN BUSINESS. Apparently the local laws are written in such a way that a strip club found to be employing minors does not automatically lose its license. The law does, however, require that a club lose its license if it is found that the management knowingly allowed the use of drugs on the premises. Go figure.

How did a child end up on the pole? Apparently she had run away from home and was one day approached by a man and a woman, the woman being an employee of the strip club, who told her they would take her to a shelter, but that she would have to work as a stripper. They brought her to the strip club and she filled out an application. The manager of the club told her she could go ahead and bring her ID when she started work, and even helped her figure out what year to write on the application when she told him she couldn’t “remember” when her birthday would have been if she was 19 years old. Then she went to work, dancing completely naked for about $100 in tips a night, $30 of which she was required to hand over to some asshole who worked at the club.

I know that I’m shooting fish in a barrel here, but this episode points out some fairly serious problems. First, what is going on when the laws impose stricter and harsher punishment on adults making the free choice to use drugs than on people who prey on children? Each and every one of the people involved in exploiting this girl ought to be in prison, and that club ought to be burned down. The fact that the place is still in business, and will probably see a boost in revenue as this story spreads (which is why I’ve opted not to mention the name of the club), is a fucking travesty. Second, where is the news coverage discussing the fact that a 12-year-old girl was seen as such a desirable asset to the management of this club that they went out of their way to recruit and employ her? Doesn’t that point to some pretty disturbing tastes among the club’s clientèle? Strip club managers may be disgusting pigs, but they’re aware of where their audience’s proclivities lie, and these motherfuckers clearly saw that an adolescent girl would really tickle the collective pickle of the perverts that frequented the club. (Gee, I wonder if they made her dress up in school girl outfits when she went on stage.) Third, what had gone on in this young girl’s life that made her so susceptible to these sleaze bags that came and offered her the job? There is no information on her family background, but I don’t need information on the cultural background this girl comes from. She’s been inundated from infancy with the idea that her worth lies in whether men want to pork her, and using her fuckability to make a living seemed like a reasonable option to her when the shit hit the fan. This, my friends, is the end result of allowing Miss Bimbo, Bratz, and Britney Spears (or the men who created her hypersexualized image) to tell our daughters what it means to be a girl.

Texas. Too bad it isn’t really a whole ‘nother country.

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You’re never too young for implants.

25 Mar

When it comes to serious feminist analysis, Jezebel is pretty weak sauce (being the “most feminist” of the Gawker Media empire sites isn’t saying much), but the site occasionally alerts me to an item or two of interest, such as the new internet sensation sweeping the nation known as Miss Bimbo. Miss Bimbo is a new online game for young girls in which the goal is to date hot dudes, have hot hair, be into hot stuff, wear hot clothes, have hot boobs, and just be generally hot, which is hot. You win by collecting bimbo attitude points (essentially popularity points), which you can amass by getting breast implants, taking diet pills, having the best wardrobe (including lingerie and “clubwear”), having the most money (for shopping, of course) and — I’m assuming — being the biggest asshole. Basically, the goal is to become Daisy De La Hoya.

The site, which looks like it’s been doused in Pepto-Bismal and hair bleach, is just the next installment in the Bratzification of American girls, but it’s even more sinister than Bratz dolls themselves. Or maybe not? The Bratz people are teaching young girls that being a woman is all about fulfilling male fantasies and allowing yourself to be reduced to sexualized body parts and fashion choices, but they’re being sneaky about it. At least the dude behind the Miss Bimbo phenomenon is telling the truth about what capitulating to the Bratz doll ideal entails in all its ugly details: if you want to live up to today’s model of femininity, get ready to starve, cut yourself up, and eschew having a personality that goes beyond being a snottie hottie.

Wait, what the fuck am I saying? This guy’s an asshole! The site’s creator, Nicholas Jacquart, a French dude of 23 (Is there anything more revolting than male continental Europeans?), claims that his site, which encourages crash dieting and plastic surgery among female children, is just “harmless fun” that “mirrors real life in a tongue-in-cheek way.” I suppose he might be right about the fact that it mirrors reality, what with the growth of pro-ana websites that serve a mainly preteen and adolescent audience and the exponential growth in breast implant surgery among ever younger women, but is that a reason to promote those practices even further by teaching young girls that these kinds of behaviors are not only normal, but the only path to happiness as a woman? But it’s not all bad; Jacquart, responsible motherfucker that he is, is doing his part to combat eating disorders. The rules section of the site, according to TimesOnline, warns players that although the goal is “to keep your bimbo waif thin… every girl needs to eat, every now and again,” so it’s important to give the old gal a rice cake every week or so to prevent her from dying and having to pass on her wardrobe of thongs and boots with the fur to some other bimbo.

I’m happy to report that, in every article I’ve read about Miss Bimbo, parents are outraged that their daughters are being encouraged to starve and mutilate themselves. However, I’m unhappy to report that, in these same articles, I’ve found that there are 1.2 million girls playing this game in France, 200,000 in the UK, and who knows how many in the US, where I expect that the membership of the site will go apeshit once the it gains ground over here. I’m also unhappy to report that, although most of the parents and parents’ organizations took issue with the game’s promotion of extremely disturbing practices like crash dieting and plastic surgery, none of them mentioned the larger forces at work behind the game and its central premise that girls’ value resides in their sex appeal and their material possessions: our culture has become disgustingly complacent about the sexualization and objectification of female children and adolescents, and we are teaching an entire generation of girls that life revolves around nothing but pink shit and boys named Cade.

Where is the outrage about the fact that the options being presented to girls in our supposed “post-feminist” society are so restricted and detrimental to the human spirit? Where is the outrage at seeing girls turned into fashionbots with no interests beyond their hair and boys who are being taught to see them as nothing but brainless sex objects? Where is the outrage at the fact that this game is telling girls that being called a bimbo is not only nothing to get upset about, but something to celebrate? It’s pretty clear to me, even with my inferior female brain, that Nicholas Jaquart has a pretty low opinion of girls and their place in the world, so why the fuck isn’t there more uproar over the fact that he’s marketing a game to female children? Way to miss the point, Jezebel.

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Fair is fair!

24 Mar

When was the last time you watched The Legend of Billie Jean? You may or may not know this about me, but I’m a pretty huge fan of 80s movies, and The Legend is one of the best ones ever made. Producers in the 80s weren’t afraid of far-fetched plots and silly concepts and, accordingly, they normally didn’t take themselves as seriously as the embarrassingly pretentious wankers who write most of the movies we see these days do. Even in their moments of seriousness, 80s movies manage to avoid seeming pretentious and still come off as silly entertainment for the most part. That’s why I watch movies, to be entertained. I don’t have time to sit around watching melodramatic nonsense written by some asshole in Silver Lake who thinks he’s had some emotion that’s so unique and important that he has to try to drag me down into his maudlin little world. If I’m getting on board with a screenwriter’s feelings, they have to be feelings I want to have, like righteous rebelliousness, mirth, or the general silliness produced by being involved in hijinks of some kind or another.

The Legend (I’m so into it I’ve given it a shortened title) does all of that for me. The movie starts out when some swaggering dickfore trashes Binx’s (played by Christian Slater) moped (!), and his sister Billie Jean goes to see the dude’s father, Pyatt, in hopes of getting him to pay for the damages, which would only be fair. Pyatt, played by the villainously mustachioed Richard Bradford, opts to forgo paying Billie Jean and instead decides to try to rape her. Billie Jean and Binx ain’t having none of that, though, and Binx shoots the old man in the arm and the pair tear off, amassing a gang of youthful pals and heading off into the sunset with them to live as outlaws until this iniquitous motherfucker decides to fork over the dough for Binx’s moped (!), which would only be fair. The rest of the movie revolves around the gang’s attempts to live on the lam without breaking the law, Billie Jean’s transformation into an idol for maltreated youngsters across the nation, and the judicious pairing of scenes of rebellious youths not taking any shit from authority figures with snippets of Pat Benatar’s “Invincible.”

Billie Jean starts off the movie a sweet young blond girl with a sense of right and wrong, but by the end she’s become a freedom fighter, as evidenced by her donning what looks like a wetsuit top, an angry haircut, and one ridiculously long earring. She has let go of her innocence and naivety and adopted a harder stance with regard to the injustices perpetrated against the impuissant by the likes of Pyatt and his dastardly son. Accordingly, she makes a video for distribution to media outlets in which she rails against the arrogance of men like Pyatt and pumps her fist in the air, yelling, “Fair is fair!” It’s almost impossible to watch because it’s so ridiculous and embarrassing, but that’s what makes it entertaining.

But it’s not just the awesomely awkward over-the-top depiction of 1985 teen angst that attracts me to The Legend; it’s also the feminist undertones in the story. Billie Jean doesn’t let herself become a victim, but instead takes charge of a situation in which the authorities have left her with no protection. She also doesn’t step back and allow some male character to defend her honor, but instead takes Pyatt on herself, all while also acting as the leader and protector of her entire gang of young brigands. It’s an awesome tale of female strength and resourcefulness. The entire movie revolves around badass women and thus offered young girls in the 1980s role models that differed wildly from Barbie. The movie even touched on the subject of menstruation, when one of Billie Jean’s gang, Putter (Yeardly Smith, who now does Lisa Simpson’s voice), has her first period while the gang is on the run. Binx makes fun of her and Billie Jean shuts him right up, telling him that menstruation is wondrous and beautiful. With a cast of characters who nearly all defy traditional gender roles and with a soundtrack dominated by Pat Benatar and Wendy O. Williams, The Legend of Billie Jean may just be one of the top feminist movies of the 80s. I say you watch it, think about how it compares to the depictions of teen girls in today’s movies, and ask yourself whether we’ve moved forward or backward.

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There is NO REASON to bleach your butthole.

18 Mar

I can’t even believe I’m writing about this shit. Actually, fuck that; I can’t believe someone came up with this. I thought I had heard everything when I found out about people cutting up and rearranging their vaginas (AKA labiaplasty), but now I’ve really reached a “holy shit, the world is going to end” moment.

Apparently, with the rise in the popularity of anal sex among today’s youth and the exploding popularity of anal porn (regular sex just isn’t sexy enough, man), the world has become increasingly aware of a serious problem that, luckily, chemicals can solve for us: the inappropriately-hued butthole. I’m picturing all sorts of scenarios in which this affront to aesthetics could come to light, and none of them are cute. They all revolve around a scenario in which a woman has been talked into “doing anal” despite her reservations about it, only to have the persuader stop and say, “Dear god, how can I be expected to do this thing that I made such a big deal out of getting you to do when your butthole isn’t even the right shade of pink?”

I know, that was gross. But don’t get mad at me. I’m not the one who has brought us to the point where men are demanding that women “do anal” and women are expected to not only acquiesce — whether it’s something they enjoy or not — but also to make sure their buttholes are the right shade of pink for the event, applying toxic chemicals to achieve that shade if necessary. I’m pretty sure this means that pornographers now completely control our minds. Otherwise there’s no fucking way a woman could go into a salon and say, “While I’m here having my pubes ripped out by the roots, could you please go ahead and apply some chemicals to my butthole?” The fucking ARROGANCE of these motherfuckers expecting women to not only let their bodies be used like objects, but to endanger their own health to make the experience more aesthetically pleasing to the person doing the using makes me so fucking angry that I want to start a nu metal band or something (OK, I can’t get that angry).

I don’t mean to beat a dead horse or anything, but the fact that this procedure exists should make it clear to everyone in the world that a) women in this godforsaken country of porn-crazed idiots are seen as nothing but sex objects, that b) our idea of what it means to be a woman is so distorted and warped that most men are now no longer attracted to women but rather to cartoonish facsimiles of women, and that c) a large proportion of the women in the world are completely brainwashed, because they just keep on accepting these new “beauty” and “grooming” requirements in the quest for male approval, basing their self-worth on whether men want to use them, which is just where these assholes want us.

I’m moving to Papua New Guinea.

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Ad Council to the women and girls of America: Harassment is your own fault!

18 Mar

I was in the shower listening to Air America the other day when I heard an ad that described the process by which photos are spread around the internet. It, like nearly every Ad Council project, was a seriously misguided and ham-fisted attempt at directing the behavior of teenagers who couldn’t give less of a fuck what the federal government thinks they ought to be doing with their weed or their digital cameras. The ad went on a progression from “here is one of your classmates downloading your racy spring break photo,” to “here is some asshole writing dirty comments about it,” to “here is your dad seeing it.” The whole ad was aimed at convincing girls not to post saucy photos of themselves on MySpace or Facebook. You know, because the problem in this scenario is the fact that the girl posted the photos on her homepage, not that her privacy has been violated or that she has been sexually harassed.

The ad doesn’t say anything like, “Hey, asshole, don’t write gross shit about people’s photos on the internet.” Or, “Hey, fuck face, don’t spread around photos that aren’t your business to spread around.” Or, “Hey, missy, don’t let people take pictures of you without your clothes on. People who want to take or see naked pictures of you aren’t your friends, but rather are assholes who see women only as sexualized body parts.” Or, “If your photo gets passed around without your permission, you should get pissed and do something about it, like make a big deal out of how women and girls are being sexualized against their will and being openly sexually harassed online, then write a blog about it, write your senator about it, etc.”

Instead, the message is, “The problem here isn’t that our culture treats women and girls like masturbatory tools, it’s that men can’t help themselves. They just have to degrade any female they can get a picture of, so it’s women’s responsibility to save these men from themselves by curtailing their own freedoms. You girls, if you should find yourselves victimized in such a way, ought to feel nothing but shame. Oh, and one more thing, your father owns your body until you get married, at which time the deed will be transferred to your husband. If he sees that his ownership has been compromised, he’ll be really, really disappointed in you. That’ll be all.”

I suppose the fact that the Ad Council has missed the point isn’t a huge shock, what with the horrendously misguided “kid smokes weed and thus shoots self in face” or “kid smokes weed and then kills small girl on bike” ads that became complete jokes within moments of airing (and make even Reefer Madness look like a realistic depiction of the ills of pot smoking), but I’m unhappy to be confronted yet again with our society’s (and our government’s) tendency to blame women for the fact that our culture allows them to be routinely abused in such a manner.

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Dismemberment is sexy as fuck, yo!

15 Mar

I’m not one of these assholes who brags about the fact that I don’t watch TV, but I don’t have cable (too poor), and network TV sucks tremendously, so I normally download whatever I want to watch (until this weekend, that is, when my school’s IT department sent me notice that I had to stop doing so on the school network… assholes). That means I don’t see many commercials, and that I have no idea what’s going on in the world of television. That was always a good thing, but now that I’m a blogger (ugh), I feel like I ought to be keeping up on pop culture happenings or something. That probably won’t translate into me actually doing so, but I want everyone to know I’m thinking about it.

Despite my ignorance of what transpires on the god box, I live in New York, so I’m constantly bombarded with ads for television shows at bus stops, on buses, on the side of buildings, in bathroom stalls, on bar coasters, in subway stations, on subway trains, on the top of cabs, on billboards… you get the point. So I’m aware that shows like Lipstick Jungle exist, and I’m aware that there’s a television series out that has something to do with the Terminator film franchise. I’ve never seen either of these shows, but I know everything I need to know about them from their bus stop ads: Lipstick Jungle is about urban women who are plagued with self-doubt and like wearing lipstick while doing it with men who only shave every four days, and The Sarah Connor Chronicles is about a female cyborg that dudes who read Maxim would totally be down to bang, bro. Let me know if I’m wrong.

I’m not wrong. As much as I’d like to delve into how obscenely trite and derivative these premises are, I’ll leave the obvious unsaid. Besides, I don’t care to waste 5 minutes I could spend thinking about how much I hate Jeremy Piven on watching either of these shows in order to get the ammo I’d need to prove that they are insultingly dumb. Instead, I want to talk about the print ads for The Sarah Connor Chronicles (I’d go over the Sex and the City… I mean… Lipstick Jungle ads, but what can be said that hasn’t been said before about a poster full of women in constricting clothing, crippling shoes, and painted faces advertising a show about the same thing? ).

I was walking down the sidewalk in Harlem with my parents one morning when we happened upon this work of art. I had been doing a little bus stop ad vandalism that week, and my mom pointed out the ad and asked me what I planned to write on it. It’s been awhile now, but I think I opted for “Goddamn, dismemberment is sexy as fuck!” Isn’t that the message here? This is nothing if not an overtly and brazenly sexualized image of a dismembered woman’s body, and it was displayed in a public place in which children can and do see it every second. “But come on,” you’ll say, “it’s not really a dismembered woman, she’s a cyborg! So it’s OK that it’s just a chunk of a body, because it’s, like, not real or anything.” If it’s just a robot and isn’t meant to be thought of as human with respect to dismemberment, why does it have to look like a female human being at all? And why are its breasts completely exposed save for the nipples, which are conveniently hidden by its long, sexy hair? I’m pretty sure sexual characteristics are superfluous for a robot (and that sexualized images of the male cyborgs in the Terminator film series don’t exist). If it was just a chunk of metal it’d be one thing, but it’s not. It’s a woman’s body that is being depicted as a sexual object, and it’s been dismembered. But it’s still supposed to be sexy.


This image is disturbing not because it stands out from other media for combining sexual titillation with the most extreme form of violence that can be done to the human body, but because it doesn’t. Shows like Dexter, the first season of which revolved around glamorized depictions of women’s bodies having been dismembered and drained of blood, seem to be in a contest in which whoever depicts the most gruesome abuse of women’s bodies wins. If you don’t believe me, watch an episode or two of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (or one of the 15 other Law and Order varieties), CSI, or any of the fucking 14,000 cop shows that revolve around mutilated corpses and brutalized rape and molestation victims. The victims are almost always female; I guess the concept of dismembering and mutilating male bodies just isn’t compelling. Wonder why that could be.

I’ve heard the argument that the writers of these shows continue to dream up ever more perverse crimes and ever more ghastly images of dead women in order to ride the shock value to better ratings and greater ad revenue, which I buy, but where is the demand coming from? Images and descriptions of women being raped, killed, and mutilated are such a common and accepted part of our cultural imagination that hardly anyone seems to be noticing just how extreme these depictions have become in mainstream media and advertising like the ad pictured here. I think this might be an excellent phenomenon to apply the switcheroo test to.

The explanation for why this is happening, as far as I can tell, is a combination of two of the most nefarious forces at work in our society: plain ol’ misogyny and the primacy of profit over morality (humanity, really) that characterizes unregulated capitalism.

One can easily observe throughout the course of history a pattern in which, when a dominant group feels its grip on its privileges and dominance loosening, it reacts violently against the group it sees as posing that threat. The rise of Jim Crow and the increase in lynchings after the end of slavery, when whites felt their security threatened by blacks gaining their freedom, is just one example. These things don’t get worked out overnight, as we can see in the sad state of race relations almost 150 years hence. Sexism, which I would submit is even more pervasive and systemic to almost every culture on Earth than racism, will take much longer to extirpate. (Settle down, I’m not claiming sexism is worse than racism, just that it’s going to be even harder to do away with.)

Many books and articles have been written about the backlash against feminism that’s been brewing since the late 1970s, as well as about what some see as a second backlash since the start of the War on Terrah, but these focus more squarely on the realms of employment and family relations than on culture, even though the backlash has manifested itself most clearly in the realm of popular culture. It’s obvious in the ways that women and girls are now being unapologetically objectified and sexualized in much more sinister ways than ever before in music videos, television shows, movies, and on the internet. The explosion of internet pornography, especially the more degrading and violent varieties, is another symptom of the pop culture backlash against the perceived growth of women’s power and position in society.

That’s where the demand comes from, but the whole process is abetted by the ever more insidious forces of unregulated and amoral capitalism at work in the advertising, media, and pornography industries. The combination of a cultural imagination dominated by a fascination with seeing women degraded and — really — punished, coupled with a media and marketing machine motivated by nothing but profits has produced a downward spiral of salaciousness and misogyny.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles poster shocked my TV-saturated parents, which I would like to take as a positive sign, but I don’t know how young people who have been raised in our hyper-sexualized porn culture and have been inured to seeing women’s bodies used and abused will be able to resist the influence of these kinds of images. I want to think we’re reaching a tipping point and that people will start to react against the growing hatred of women in our cultural life, but I sometimes worry that we might just be fucked.

(As I write this, I’m sitting on a Southwest flight from Chicago to Las Vegas, neither of which is my departure or destination city [discount travel!], and some fucking jagoff is going through a slideshow of photos he has on his computer. They include a bunch of stupid photos of “alternative” looking “chicks” with tattoos, some photos of some dumb band [nu metal, no doubt], some photos of this same band with two tattooed Suicide Girl types in nothing but thongs making out with each other as the band stands behind them fully clothed and appears not to notice, some more photos of the two SGs on a bed nearly naked with one of them pointing a gun at the other, and a few with a girl wearing a nurse’s cap, a thong, and about a pint of blood. Rock and fucking roll. Did I mention that I’m in public?)


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Just a quick thought on Spitzer

12 Mar

I’m hearing a lot of arguments about whether my state’s governor ought to resign. There are people saying he should because it’s ethically questionable for him to negotiate a plea from the governor’s mansion. There are others who say that his private life is his own business and that this is a witch hunt reminiscent of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. Those arguments may have their merits, but what about the fact that we have a governor who supposedly represents the entire population of the state but has no respect for half of it? No man who sees women as possessing the same measure of humanity as himself pays someone to allow him to “do things” to her. And from what I’ve read he’s into some “unsafe” (whatever the fuck that means) practices, which is even worse. It’s the same concept I’ve read Robert Jensen writing about when it comes to porn: how is a woman supposed to expect to be treated like a human being by a male authority figure who was watching “Filthy Cum Sluts 23″ the night before? And how is a woman to expect fair treatment from a guy who likes to pay to abuse women? He’s in a position of authority, a position from which he is to be expected to treat people fairly and equally. He’s proved that he doesn’t see men and women as equal, so he ought to resign. And his wife should tell him to go fuck himself and go to his little bullshit press conferences alone.

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MRAs: A bunch of crybabies?

11 Mar

I spent a little time this weekend conversating with a men’s rights activist (MRA) on his insane little blog, which I posted something about here (that has now been deleted because it sucked), and I’ve decided to tackle the borderline oxymoronic concept of men’s rights activism. I’ll do my best to avoid mischaracterizations, because that’s an MRA tactic; most of their arguments are made in genuine Bill O’Reilly style by cherry-picking quotes in order to create straw men in place of legitimate arguments and by exaggerating the frequency and importance of such “outrages” as they think prove their argument that men’s rights are in serious danger of being trampled upon by “lesbians,” “feminazis,” and “lying whores” (their favorite labels for women who aren’t picking up what they’re laying down). Besides, I don’t think I’ll need to resort to any of that, since the general concept and all of its tenets are entertainingly absurd enough on their own.

Not all MRAs are advancing the same set of issues, but the Wikipedia entry (see what an advanced researcher I am?) has outlined the central features of the (capital M, capital R, capital M) Men’s Rights Movement as “the promotion of male equality, The rights to equal treatment in custody battles, rights, and freedoms in society [sic].” Their main areas of concern are “the effect that Divorce, Custody, Rape and Violence Against Women Act-type laws have on men’s rights and freedoms. It is argued that these laws cause violation of Constitutional rights such as the right to a fair trial and the right to due process [sic again, sheez].” In addition, “Men’s Rights Advocacy and Masculinism also promote the concept of ‘defending male identity’ [sic, what's with all the capitalization?].” They’re also concerned that our education system, health industry, and laws leave them unprotected from the predations of vindictive and man-hating women. Let’s have a look at these concepts one at a time, shall we?

  1. The promotion of male equality. Equality with what, or whom? I have been thinking about this all day (OK, 45 seconds), and I cannot seem to come up with a group of people with higher legal, cultural, and social status than men. Are these guys honestly claiming that they are subordinated to women somehow? Whatever claims MRAs want to make about our legal system (which I’ll get to shortly), none of them can seriously claim that the status of men in our (or any) society is unequal to that of women.
  2. The right to equal treatment in custody battles. I’ll say up front that I think fathers, unless they’re total assholes, ought to be involved in their children’s lives. I had one around and it was an important factor in my personal development. That said, most fathers are fairly minor actors in the raising of children, which is simply a manifestation of the fact that our culture places the onus of childcare on women, and the fact that childbearing and rearing is seen in our society as nearly synonymous with womanhood. If these MRAs want to get all butt-hurt about the fact that our court system tends to favor mothers in custody hearings (which I doubt anyway), they ought to at least take these factors into account. I’m willing to bet that a lot of these disgruntled fathers, if they were honest with themselves, would have to admit that before the end of the relationship, it was the mother who provided most of the care for the child(ren), otherwise the judge would be unlikely to award custody to the mother in the first place. That men feel entitled to a woman’s labor in the form of childcare, and then to custody of the child(ren) that she raised in the event that the relationship dissolves, is pretty unreasonable. I think that in normal cases custody ought to be awarded in a ratio proportionate to the time that each parent spent with the child before the dissolution of the relationship.
  3. Divorce and men’s rights. We live in a society in which a large portion of women’s labor goes unpaid, and in which women’s paid labor is undervalued. Our social mores have loosened to the point where divorce is more often considered a given than an unthinkable outcome for a marriage (I ain’t saying that’s necessarily a bad thing). That combination of factors puts women in an often untenable situation: they are asked to give up their own career/life plans in order to work in the home, or to put their careers on hold in order to provide care for children, and are thus economically dependent on men, or at least put at an economic disadvantage by being out of the labor market during a crucial period in the development of their careers. That the law (partially) takes this into account is to be expected. If a woman expends her labor in order to make a home from which her partner can work outside the home to earn money, she ought to be considered to have contributed to the family’s combined property. MRAs assume women ought to be left at the mercy of their husbands in the event of divorce. I understand that they find the thought of having to give up a portion of their assets disquieting, but I imagine that fear is a little easier to deal with than the fear of being abandoned with no money and no job skills, which is something that many women, especially those in the generation before ours, are faced with. Men can’t expect the freedom to divorce dependent partners at will, and also the freedom to leave those partners with nothing with which to support themselves. And community property laws work both ways; if a woman earns a larger amount of money than a man, she may also be required to turn a portion of her income over to him after a divorce. The fact that this rarely happens doesn’t make the laws unfair, it merely points to the fact that men are still paid more than women for the most part and that women are rarely the chief breadwinners in a family because they are usually expected to take a backseat to their husbands and take care of the work required in the home.
  4. Rape and men’s rights. Twisty Faster wrote a post once about the legal presumption of innocence in rape cases in which she posited an alternative legal framework in which rape accusations were presumed legitimate unless proven otherwise. As at odds as that idea is with the entirety of American legal philosophy, it is worth thinking about. As things are now, as few as 10% of rapes are reported, and among those, as few as 6% of the rapes that are reported result in convictions. Those are pretty shitty odds. The reason the odds are so bad are many, but the chief reason for the low number of victims that report their assaults is the humiliation and trauma involved in most rape investigations and trials. Most rape cases come down to an accusation and a denial which, because defendants are presumed innocent, means that cases are usually decided in the defendant’s favor. I find it hard to believe that 94% or so of women who report rapes are vindictive assholes who are willing to endure being called a whore in open court in order to get back at a man who slighted them. I don’t deny that false rape accusations happen, but the numbers have to be quite a bit lower than that. Let’s say, as a joke, that 1 in 100 rape accusations is false. Without evidence other than victim testimony, that 1 in 100 is still likely to walk on the charges. But with as many as 94 in 100 cases decided in the defendant’s favor, doesn’t that mean that about 93 rapists are walking free? The MRA obsession with false rape charges, the arguments for which are usually based on overblown interpretations of extremely rare cases, points to a general reluctance to afford women the right to decide what they will do with their own bodies, a reluctance that stems from the male sense of entitlement to women’s sexual favors. It’s that same entitlement that fuels most sexual assault. Surprise, surprise. Men’s rights, gawd. How about the right to not get raped?
  5. Domestic violence and men’s rights. If a man beats anyone, he ought to go to jail. If a woman beats anyone, she ought to go to jail. What’s the problem? Again, this is an issue of MRAs claiming that women falsely accuse men of domestic violence out of vengeance. That probably happens sometimes. Know what happens more? Women being beaten to death by their partners, many of whom have been picked up for domestic violence several times before they eventually kill their partners. There just isn’t a way to structure the law to deal effectively and uniformly with cases in which two emotional (opposite of rational) people are giving contradictory stories, as evidenced by how many men go free on domestic violence charges when there is no corroborating evidence to back up the victim’s testimony. Our legal system favors defendants in all cases in which the case comes down to conflicting testimony, which means that more often than not, men who assault women are not punished.
  6. Men’s rights and the law in general. Our legal system, and its central concept of the “rights”of “citizens”, is a descendant of the ancient Roman law system that spawned both concepts and the British legal system from which our own legal tradition takes most of its central tenets. Rights in the Roman, British, and American legal systems transcend the rule of man and inhere in each citizen under a rule of law that binds all citizens equally. But citizenship has been founded on several bases throughout history, the most common of which has been maleness, the second most common being property (and/or slave) ownership. After a tradition of defining citizenship through maleness for over 2000 years, women have been awarded citizenship by men (despite the fact that legal rights purportedly transcend the rule of man) just in the last century or so in the western world. But equality before the law, which all men enjoy in America, is something that American women have not yet attained, despite being recently included in the category of “citizen” that ought to have guaranteed equality before the law according to the foundations of our own legal philosophy. We still, 43 years after the Civil Rights Act that awarded equal rights to all men under the law, do not have an Equal Rights Amendment for women. Additionally, as of today, men still make the laws in America; of 435 members of the House of Representatives, only 70 are women, and of the 100 members of the Senate, a mere 16 are women. For those who are worried about “legislating from the bench,” there is ONE woman on the Supreme Court. I find it difficult to take pity on men for their supposed lack of legal rights within a system that they have created, that they control, and that they administer according to their own needs.
  7. The healthcare industry. Be serious. Men run the health care industry, as evidenced by the kinds of “advances” that industry makes year after year. We have Rogaine. We have Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra. We don’t have a male birth control pill. Women are still held accountable for birth control, and most hormonal birth control methods pose serious risks to women’s health that include strokes and death. Plus, women’s health care costs more than men’s. Let’s face it, we are all in a shitty situation when it comes to health care, but men created this system, and it serves their needs better than it serves ours.
  8. The protection of male identity. OK, Bill Maher. I’m so sick of hearing about the “pussification” of American men. Jesus. Any time a dude treats a woman decently and realizes that the NFL is a boring, corporatized insult to the intellect, some asshole comes out and calls him a faggot. There is NO SUCH THING as a “male” or “female” behavior. All the bullshit macho nonsense these guys believe is inborn is virtually absent in cultures that are in some ways much more misogynistic than our own (India, China in some ways), but why would I expect an MRA to be interested in evidence?
  9. The educational system. MRAs are concerned that our educational system devalues and sidelines boys. What a fucking laugh. This argument is based on complaints that girls are allowed to wear things like “Boys are stupid” t-shirts without getting in trouble, whereas boys could do no such equivalent thing. That makes about as much sense as the old “It’s OK for black people to be racist, so why can’t I say the n-word?” argument. Don’t get me wrong, I think those t-shirts are stupid and parents shouldn’t let their daughters out of the house in something so uncool, and I suppose no one ought to be wearing fashions that denigrate any group based on immutable characteristics, but is this really a sign that our educational system is anti-male? There’s a general argument by MRAs that boys just aren’t free to be themselves at school anymore, that women run the place. They complain that girls are allowed to vent publicly about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault, and the boys “just have to sit there and take it.” What it looks like to me is that schools are trying to correct the long-standing problem of unequal treatment and rampant sexual harassment. As it is, girls are still being discouraged from pursuing subjects like mathematics and science that would bolster their future earning potential by teachers who (consciously or not) think girls ought to study “feminine” things like the humanities, and teachers still tend to call on male students more often than female students and assume that their male students are brighter than their female ones. Our entire public school system was designed in the first place to train boys for the workforce, a legacy that has far from disappeared. What these MRAs are complaining about is the gradual (though far from complete) diminishing of male privilege in schools, which they incorrectly perceive as the ascendancy of girls over boys.

This last point highlights the central feature of the MRA movement: these men see a zero-sum game when they look at relations between men and women. When women gain, they lose. MRAs are expressing the kind of anger that comes from feeling threatened but not being able to say clearly why. They feel entitled to the privileges they have come to see as their birthright, and when women want the same kind of treatment that they feel entitled to, they feel that their territory is being encroached upon. That mental process is understandable (though not excusable), but it’s intellectually weak and dishonest to argue that men’s “rights” are in danger. What these guys are doing is fairly transparent: they’re arguing for the maintenance of male entitlement and privilege and for the limitation of women’s rights vis-à-vis men, not for the protection of men’s rights. They can euphemize that in any terms they want to, but they still sound like a bunch of fucking crybabies.

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