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Elliot Rodger and the Pandemic of Masculinity

3 Jun

I read Elliot Rodger’s manifesto yesterday. It was, without a doubt, the least surprising document I’ve ever read. It wasn’t hard to follow; it wasn’t bizarre; it wasn’t a collection of the meanderings of a mind that had lost touch with reality. Instead, it was boring, trite, obvious, and exactly what I expected it to be: a rant by a spoiled brat with an overweening sense of entitlement. To women, to sex, to wealth, to attention and adoration. Frankly, I suspected at times that it was written by a Marxist feminist satirizing privileged male entitlement in general and MRAs in particular.

Elliot Rodger wasn’t Holden Caulfield, he was a bratty little asshole who assumed he was somehow superior to everyone else and thus deserved rewards simply for existing. The rage that he felt wasn’t caused by the cruelty of others, but by his own unreasonable expectations, expectations shared by the majority of men. He may have been less equipped to deal with frustration than the average person, but his reaction to that frustration shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been paying attention to the directions the culture has been taking over the course of the last decade or so.

About that manifesto. I’d call it a memoir of a cult member rather than a manifesto, since it doesn’t contain an idea of any kind. Rodger spends 141 pages narcissistically recounting every detail of his privileged childhood, describing in excruciatingly boring detail each family trip to some “exotic” locale or other, each luxurious Japanese dinner, each wasteful birthday celebration, each time he and his family attended a media industry event as someone else’s plus-one. Save a few bits of ham-fisted foreshadowing, the story up until Rodger hits puberty reads like the autobiography of every kid I went to elementary school with in Southern California: upper middle class parents who have no interest in raising a child but plenty of money and help doing so raise a kid with a profound sense of both entitlement and abandonment. His family clearly had just enough money and social status to gain entry to the outer circles of extreme privilege, and to afford Rodger a glimpse of what could be his if only he were fabulously, disgustingly wealthy instead of just comfortable in the extreme.

In fact, the story Rodger tells of his life after puberty reads like a tale of the rude awakening to the fact that his parents were not that rich after all. He makes repeated reference to puberty as the mainspring of his disillusionment with life and humanity, as the catalyst to his confrontation with the cruel realities of the world, but he is clearly projecting a concept he has adopted from the Men’s Rights Movement and from the Pick-Up Artist (PUA) scene onto his own adolescent understanding of the world, while his recounting of his own memories illustrates a gradual realization that he was not, after all, a member of the Hollywood gentry.

Is it just me, or are there more cult-ish movements around these days than there were a few years ago? Rodger makes mention of his attempt to follow the advice contained in Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, a book that encourages readers to think they are multi-millionaires to whom life’s rewards flow unremittingly and without effort, which will result in them actually becoming one-per-centers. Though Rodger ultimately dismisses The Secret when putting its methods into practice doesn’t result in his winning the lottery and thus becoming a pussy magnet, the fact that he tried it in the first place, coupled with his wholesale adoption of MRA and PUA theories of how the world works, indicates that he shared something in common with tens of millions of people: the willingness to believe that disappointments and frustrations can be explained by nebulous, ill-fitting, simplistic principles propounded by self-help mountebanks in the pursuit of book and seminar ticket sales.

The culture told Rodger that sex, money, and attention were his birthright. When the system failed to deliver, Rodger flailed around, seeking an explanation. At first, it seemed that he turned his frustration inward and assumed that he was lonely because he was somehow defective. At that point in the narrative, I almost felt sorry for him. We’ve all been bullied, we’ve all questioned our worth as human beings based on the way that others treat us, and we’ve all wondered if life would be better for us if we were somehow constitutionally different than we are. It’s gross. Some of us respond to that kind of fundamental uncertainty about our value by entering into a pattern of self-abuse, some of us begin to question the system of social values that leads to such misery, and some of us fall prey to explanations that place the blame for our unhappiness on the people who reject us. Some of us do all three. But disorder arises when someone like Rodger fails to differentiate between fantasy and reality and never grows out of the expectation that life will turn out like a Bud Light commercial. Or a porn video.

So, what did the culture tell Rodger he could expect from the world? As a privileged child, he was given everything he expressed a desire for, it would appear. Rodger, cared for by a series of nannies, also grew accustomed to being doted on by young women in his childhood years. He grew up on the edges of Hollywood’s elite, a world in which power and wealth command attention and favors from what must look to a child to be an unending parade of young, beautiful women. Once Rodger learned about sex (from porn, naturally), he reached the seemingly obvious conclusion that he was owed sex due to his superior social position.

The culture tells all men that they are owed access to women’s bodies and energy. Sitcoms feature attractive women married to and putting up with mountains of bullshit from blundering schlubs. Movies hammer the idea into boys’ minds that young, hot women, though they may resist at first, will eventually fall into the laps of lazy, misogynistic, overgrown infants like those played by Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill in Judd Apatow movies (yeah, assholes, that’s right: your movies promote misogyny and male entitlement). Porn tells young boys with no other knowledge of sex that women are filthy pigs who just love being gangbanged and ejaculated on by abusive, sneering monsters.

I don’t know why girls rejected Elliot Rodger when he entered adolescence, or whether they even did. There seemed to have been a window in junior high — before he started consuming porn — when that was not the case. He might have been a little awkward, he may have lacked social skills, but it appears that his obsessive sense of entitlement to what he believed other boys enjoyed (whether that was the case or not) took over, coloring all of his interactions and probably preempting any chance he had at relating to girls. He was consumed by the foolish belief that porn and bullshit adolescent male bragging were reality for everyone but him. Once that set in, his anger and desperation probably became palpable in social situations to the point that women — who learn from a young age how to spot signs of danger in male behavior — steered clear.

Without any real contact with women, for Rodger, they became cartoon characters, aliens, beasts, non-human. They were an enemy to be vanquished, a prize to be collected for the achievement of having been born male, the source of all of his frustrated expectations. He absorbed those messages wholesale from mass media culture. Rodger’s memoir reads like a catalog of his consumption of popular media, from Pokemon through World of Warcraft through Halo 2, from Star Wars to the Lord of the Rings trilogy to Game of Thrones, to internet pornography, to MRA discussion forums populated by legions of men railing against women for not fulfilling the fantasies instilled in them by that same media culture.

Several feminist bloggers have made the argument that writing Rodger off as mentally ill takes the focus off of systemic misogyny and allows a worldwide epidemic of woman-hating and gynophobic violence to go unexamined. They aren’t wrong. But Rodger was mentally ill. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning.

By that definition, Rodger was certainly mentally ill, and so are most men. What set Rodger apart was his willingness to participate directly in violence against women as women in order to punish them for refusing to provide him with the sex he felt entitled to, rather than simply doing so by proxy via the consumption of violent and degrading porn and other products of a capitalo-misogynistic society. The existence of masculinity requires that men be unable to relate to women, as masculinity and femininity are the institutions upon which male supremacy rests. A man who is capable of relating to women — who does not suffer from the mental illness known as masculinity — is incapable of abusing them, either in person or by proxy.

Fall 2010 Course Offerings in the Men’s Studies Department

25 Apr

Reader Elizabeth tipped me off last week to a podcast of some DaHarb named Lionel Tiger (no, seriously) who has had the blisteringly original idea that universities, if they’re going to offer Women’s Studies courses, ought to be required – in the name of equality – to offer Men’s Studies courses. As someone who has spent the last eight years on college campuses futzing around various humanities and social sciences departments, I would like to reassure Mr. Tiger that he needn’t worry about men’s curricular under-representation. Men’s Studies actually already exists. I don’t know what they call it at Rutgers where he teaches, but at the two universities I’ve attended, they call it Literature, History, Art History, Political Science, Economics, and Area Studies. Really, nearly every course taught in every humanities or social science department on Earth could be considered Men’s Studies were it not for the token textbook chapter here and there on “women’s history” or “women’s literature.” Or maybe Tiger is concerned when he looks at the course catalog and sees a section for African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Chicano Studies, Women’s Studies, etc. but doesn’t see a White Men’s Studies, an omission that would imply that white men aren’t oppressed enough to warrant a department dedicated to the study of their suffering. I mean, just imagine.*

Let’s pretend for a minute that the majority of Women’s Studies departments haven’t already been rebranded and ideologically reworked as Gender Studies departments and think about what kinds of courses might fall under the rubric of Men’s Studies. Davetavius and I have designed for your perusal a hypothetical grouping of course offerings for the Fall 2010 semester for the Men’s Studies department at Alternate Universe State (I’m guessing that it might be possible that in some alternate universe there exists a shortage of college courses about men and their concerns, though I still doubt it).

Undergraduate Course Offerings

MNST 101 Introduction to Chicks – Required for all Men’s Studies majors. Introduces basic concepts in the study of chicks, how to get them to get naked, and what’s wrong with them. Concepts that will be covered include basic sexual coercion techniques, creative avoidance of privilege examination, and basic victim-blaming.

MNST 110 Strip Club Etiquette  — This course will give students a thorough grounding in the behavior expected at strip clubs. Topics will include avoiding contact with bouncers, how to discreetly inquire about the availability of intercourse or fellatio, how to maximize the amount of attention one can get per tip dollar, how to avoid ingesting pubic hairs at free strip club lunch buffets, the parameters of lap dances, advanced glitter removal laundry techniques, and basic alibi formation.

MNST 123 Intermediate Automobile Appreciation – Building on the fundamentals taught in MNST 122, this course will take students beyond a basic understanding and appreciation of horsepower and will prepare them to classify American vehicles by year and to detect and precisely identify common vehicle modifications. Prerequisite: MNST 122 Basic Automobile Appreciation or proof of ownership of a classic vehicle as defined by department guidelines. May be taken concurrently with MNST 124 Introduction to Drifting.

MNST 209 Intermediate NFL Theory – This course will build upon the basic knowledge of the NFL taught in MNST 109 to prepare students to call sports talk radio shows and discuss coaching strategies and to assemble a viable fantasy football team. Intended to prepare students for MNST 210 Applied NFL Theory: Fantasy Football. Prerequisite: MNST 109 Basic NFL Theory To Prevent Sounding Like A Faggot or permission of the coach.

MNST 212 Applied Fart Science – This course will allow students to put what they have learned in the course of our two-semester fart theory sequence into practice. Topics to be covered include public flatulence strategies, mind control techniques that will allow one to maintain a straight face while others attempt to detect the source of a fart, complex “pull my finger” sequences, the scientific principles of rectal methane combustion, and rhetorical strategies for smelt it/dealt it disputes. Prerequisite: MNST 211 Intermediate Fart Theory or department placement exam.

MNST 323 Directed Research in Mammarian Theory – Senior seminar intended for MNST majors. This course will allow students to move beyond basic breast appreciation and to formulate an individualized mammarian taxonomy in preparation for the senior thesis (required for all MNST majors, a 25,000-word essay on who has/had the world’s greatest tits). Students work with an advisor to identify three individual areas of interest (e.g., 80s boob comedies, silicon implants versus saline implants, tactile versus visual breast appreciation, etc.) and to examine relevant research data. Intended as preparation for MNST 324 Senior Thesis Seminar in Advanced Mammarian Studies. Prerequisite: at least four courses in the MNST 310-319 range of upper-division Mammarian Theory courses.

Graduate Course Offerings

MNST 412 Computer Science for Men: Advanced Pornography Perusal Techniques – This course will prepare students to develop complex Boolean search sequences for the efficient and precise acquisition of highly specific pornographic content. Final exam to consist of a timed search for a minimum of five free video clips matching at least 7 of 10 of the criteria outlined in a randomly chosen description of a 4Chan member’s preferred masturbatory fantasy. Intended for MA students as preparation for the MA thesis in the Erotic Arts sub-field. Prerequisite: MNST 380 Intermediate Pornography Perusal Techniques: Moving Beyond Basic Anal.

MNST 465 Directed Research in Microbrews – This course builds on the MNST 460-464 series of courses in microbrew appreciation to prepare MA students to write the MA thesis in the Fermented Beverages sub-field. Students work with an advisor to identify three breweries (either domestic, European, or a combination of the two) and to sample and analyze the products of each before writing a comparative thesis in the field. Students seeking entry into the PhD program with a focus in Fermented Beverages are encouraged to complete MNST 466 Applied Microbrew Theory: Home Brewing and/or MNST 467 Applied Microbrew Theory: Advanced Punning for Beer Naming in preparation for their doctoral research. Prerequisite: MNST 464 Advanced Microbrew Appreciation: Boulder vs. Belgium.

MNST 501 Advanced Men’s Rhetoric for PhD Students – This multidisciplinary course is intended to help doctoral students to prepare for their oral qualifying examinations by introducing them to advanced rhetorical strategies for the defense of male privilege and the male-supremacist status quo. Topics to be covered include creative interpretation and misrepresentation of rape and domestic violence statistics, the utilization of historical precedent as a rationalization for the continued subjugation of women and/or people of color, the deployment of basic evolutionary psychology/biology to excuse sociopathic behavior on the part of men, advanced applied false analogy theory for use in situations in which it is advantageous to compare the white male heterosexual experience to that of groups of people who have actually been oppressed, and advanced men’s ultramicro-economic theory, which will prepare students to appear to refute the claims of Marxist and anarchist feminists about men’s systemic misappropriation of women’s labor by producing anecdotal evidence that a woman once took advantage of a man for monetary gain. Having completed this course, students will have the opportunity to earn extra credit for participation in a debate with students from the university’s Women’s Studies department at which everyone will be required to give both sides’ arguments equal weight regardless of the quantity and quality of thought and knowledge that underlies each, as to do otherwise would unfairly disadvantage the Men’s Studies students. This event, like our department, will be funded with monies taken from the Women’s Studies budget.

Should you have a class title or description to suggest, please do so in comments. The department will surely expand.

* Since I know everyone really wants to know my opinion on the organization of university curricula: in short, ____ Studies departments only serve to create the illusion of commonalities that are at best crude and misleading and to further ghettoize the study of women, non-heterosexuals, and people of color. A wiser tack to take would be to quit judging all people against a white male heterosexual yardstick and require that the professors of regular ol’ history/literature/etc. courses quit pretending dead white men were the only people who ever did anything noteworthy.

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Why I Hate Men Part 2: Guys Take Up Space

18 Feb

I know you all must be tired of all this football talk being as it’s a bunch of yammering about men’s interests on a purportedly feminist website. (I can tell by my hits, but come on, that header image of the idiot football fans whooping it up like monkeys over the Jets was pretty funny, right?) I figured I’d compensate by talking some more about men, but in a much less charitable tone (not that I was all that charitable about football, but I did allow a bit of male perspective onto the site, which I suppose I deserve a fine for). And hence we resume the Why I Hate Men series.

You remember Airport Asshole, don’t you? He was the muse, as it were, that inspired me to write the Why I Hate Men series in the first place. Now, I know I haven’t exactly whipped this series out, but the important thing — according to me — is that I’m getting to it now.  Anyway, Airport Asshole exhibited so many of the characteristics that make men such a generally repulsive bunch that I’ve decided to go ahead and use him as an example to illustrate the subjects of each of the posts in this series. He serves as a particularly fine case study for this post.

Have you ever seen Just One of the Guys? It’s probably my favorite 80s movie — if not my favorite movie of all time — and if you haven’t seen it you’re missing something very major in your life. The story is awesome. Terry Griffith (played by the world’s greatest actor, Joyce Hyser), a popular teenage girl at an Arizona high school, determines after overhearing her journalism teacher and some old perv who also teaches at the school discussing the old perv’s desire to bang her that the reason she didn’t win the school’s journalism contest was because she’s a girl. Because her only dream in life is to enter the field of journalism, and because the contest winner will compete against the winner from a rival high school for a summer internship at the local paper, Terri decides to disguise herself as a boy and enroll in the other school in order to submit her article there. Luckily for Terri, her parents are out of town at the time, her name is Terri, Sturgis-Wilder High School has lax paperwork requirements for incoming students, and the school’s journalism contest’s deadline is two weeks later than that at her original institution, Pearl High School (otherwise the whole thing would never have worked, har har). Hijinks ensue as Terri attempts to pass herself off as a boy while partying her way through two unsupervised weeks with her sex-crazed younger brother, Buddy. I won’t ruin the rest of the story for you, but you need to see it. It’s got Billy Zabka (the bad guy from Karate Kid) as the greatest 80s movie bully of all time, it’s got Billy Jacoby (Brad from Silver Spoons) as the pervy little brother, it’s got Leigh McCloskey (who was unfortunately in Fraternity Vacation with Tim Robbins, retch) as the asshole college boyfriend, it’s got Arye Gross (Gordon Bloomfeld — of the Marina Del Rey Bloomfelds — from Soul Man) as one of the school’s nerds, it’s got a custom title-track written and performed by Shalamar, and the soundtrack features one of the greatest songs ever made, “Trouble” by Lindsey Buckingham. Seriously. See it.

What in the hell, you must be asking, does this have to do with Nine Deuce hating men? Not much, really, but it’s essential set-up for the following clip in which Buddy, on the occasion of Terri’s first appearance as a dude (in a KILLER wing cap), teaches her how to pass for male. I’d recommend watching the whole seven minutes or so, but the essential bit starts at about 4:37.

Buddy, though he may be a little asshole, is right about one thing: guys take up space. Airport Asshole took up a LOT of space, using seats as luggage racks, sprawling out over several chairs, sticking his legs out into the aisle so that anyone walking past would be forced to squeeze by him and all of his personal items. Men take up space. They take up space on the subway, in restaurants, at the library, everywhere. They spread out. They make themselves at home. They take up as much space as they require and, often, much more without regard for anyone else’s existence. It’s not exactly ground-breaking to say that men take up more than their fair share of space (I mean, what woman who has ever lived with a dude hasn’t had to tell him to get the fuck out of the middle of the bed so she can lie down), but that’s really only the most obvious manifestation of the underlying problem with most of the male products of our culture (and most others): a turgid, overflowing, completely unexamined sense of entitlement. And is there any more repugnant personality characteristic than an obvious sense of entitlement?

That sense of entitlement encompasses much more than just a requirement for a lot of physical space, it also includes an expectation on the part of most men that they be free to take up as much of several more abstract forms of space as they want to. Men grow up believing that the world revolves around them (because it does), and that cannot but lead to boorishness. Just think about the behaviors that the average parent and society at large encourage in children. Little girls are taught to take up as little room as possible, to be nice to everyone, to be quiet, to be sweet, to emulate the demure and coquettish behaviors they see adult women exhibiting around them and on television, to keep their opinions to themselves unless they’re handing out compliments, to think of everyone in the world’s needs and wants before their own. Little boys, on the other hand, are encouraged to be rambunctious, confident, and bold. They’re rarely told how to sit or how to walk or how to talk unless they’re exhibiting absolutely egregious behavior, and they learn to emulate the behaviors of the adult men they see around them and on television. And current male role models come in two general types: the imposing, intimidating man’s man who frowns at everyone all the time (think Don Draper and Keith Olbermann) and the bratty asshole “man-child,” the positive portrayal of which has made it possible for Kevin Smith to afford the world’s ultimate gaming system and as many of those Japanese sex robots as anyone could possibly want (I’m guessing — I suppose he could be into collecting Warhammer 40,000 figurines and hanging out with strippers).

What both of these types have in common, and what boys generally absorb as they’re squished into the male gender mold, is a sense of entitlement to take up space on every possible front. Let us look at a few examples:

  • Men expect to get to talk, and they expect everyone to listen to them, whether they know what they’re talking about or not. Now, I see no problem with anyone expecting people to listen to them in discussions in which they possess relevant knowledge, but this goes far beyond that. For example, I have an advanced degree in a certain subject and am in the process of obtaining an even advanceder one. Still, there are men I know who have not taken one course or read three books on the subject who think they’ve got a thing or two to tell me about that subject. Despite the fact that they’re almost always completely factually and analytically off base and despite the fact that I have several pieces of paper from universities (the bastions of the white male-centric epistemological order) people in other countries have heard of that prove that I know more about the subject than these dudes do, I am expected to endure their sophomoric proclamations and to prove to them that I am not wrong for disagreeing with their ill-informed conclusions. Then there are the “intellectual” types who come to this and other feminist blogs to explain things to us womenfolk, operating on the presumption that, even though we’ve been thinking, reading, and writing about these subjects for longer than they’ve been ruminating on the majesty of “alternative” internet porn and how “rad” Nietzsche was, we could never possibly have conceived of what they’re bringing to the table and thus ought to take their uninformed and painfully banal opinions-disguised-as-fact as gospel. They feel entitled to sap the energy of feminists by forcing us to repeatedly explain to them why feminism and not humanism, why the feminist movement does not need male leadership or consulting services, why the female gender role causes more psychic harm than male privilege, why bukkake isn’t a feminist act for the recipient. In short, men, whether they are qualified to or not (and they are most often not), take up too goddamn much intellectual space.
  • Men expect women to give them the benefit of the doubt and to waste our time considering possible excuses for their stupid behavior. When I talk to people I know about porn use, without fail dudes tell me that men can’t help but use porn because ____, ____, and ____ make it impossible to do otherwise. When I note that this or that dude is a homophobic, misogynistic asshole, some other dude will tell me it isn’t his fault, he just grew up in a culture in which he was expected to act like a Pantera fan. I get it because I have also spent my entire three decades in a culture that expects me to behave in ways that I find absurd, but I don’t engage in those behaviors because I’ve realized that they’re absurd and have decided not to engage in them because I am responsible for my own behavior. Weird, I know. But where does all of this empathy go when it comes to women’s behavior? Why aren’t these dudes brainstorming excuses for women’s actions that they don’t particularly like? Because men are entitled to empathy and women aren’t. Doi. Men take up too much emotional space.
  • Men feel entitled to unfettered access to women’s bodies. Men coerce women into sex they do not want by means of emotional manipulation, physical and psychological terrorism, and plain old brute force. They push their partners into sex acts that they might not want to do. They refuse to stop when they’re asked to stop, pretending not to know the difference between yes and no. They grope us, harass us, leer at us, and threaten us, and expect us to take it as a compliment.  Men also think they’re entitled to use pornography despite the fact that women and girls are abused in its production and despite the negative effects their and others’ porn use has on the women they are close to and on women as a group. The world is awash in images of what men want; advertisements, porn, movies, television, strip clubs, women’s fashion, and the female sex role in general all exist to cater to men’s sexual wants to the detriment of women’s free sexual expression and our bodily and mental health. Men and their aggressive, oppressive sexuality take up too much social space.
  • Men feel entitled to use the language that ought to be reserved for discussing real oppression to equate their petty, individualistic grievances with much more serious and widespread phenomena. Men think they ought to be considered equally put upon simply because they can come up with an example of a time a man suffered. They, from their loftily oblivious position, don’t have to think very hard about the issue at hand. If they can come up with a single example to show that they, too, have at one time or another been victims, then they are off the hook and don’t need to acknowledge their privilege. They argue that if women want equality, then women have to be willing to give men equal room to whine about what they’ve been made to suffer. They don’t see the big picture, but rather each tiny incident as if it weren’t connected to larger social forces. Hence, you have men complaining about some overblown case of a false rape accusation but unwilling to confront the reality of what it means to be female in a culture in which women’s sexuality is seen as the property of men. Or you see men suing bars that have ladies’ night because it’s not fair to make men (who make more money than women) pay a cover when women don’t have to, taking no account of anything other than the “unfairness” of unequal cover charges. It’s similar to the old, “If black people can say nigger, why can’t I?” argument. It’s utter tomfoolery, but it’s the crux of every MRA argument, this conception of equality that’s completely myopic (at best) and/or dishonest. Men take up too much discursive space.

Feel free to add to this admittedly short (because of lack of time, not material) list.

Now, I can already hear the complaints of gender essentialism here. I am not claiming that these traits are inborn, or that all men exhibit all of them, but rather that our current cultural construction of masculinity encourages them in most men to varying degrees (translation: I hope I don’t need to say this, but if this isn’t about you, it isn’t about you). I’m also not claiming that the feminine gender role is superior to the masculine one. I have quite a few objections to the feminine role, as I’m sure everyone knows. No, it’s masculinity AND femininity that are the problem, because we don’t need two gender roles arranged in a hierarchy maintained by sexualized violence and political and social repression. The behaviors I’m outlining in this series are bad because they are boorish, aggressive, emotionally violent, and lead to unnecessary suffering on the part of women and the men who have to deal with alpha male bullshit. That these behaviors are associated with maleness reflects badly on the concept of masculinity, yes, but my response isn’t to say that femininity should replace masculinity as a hegemon, but rather that both should disappear, as should the stupid practices associated with them. There are valuable things associated with femininity (caring about people, knowing how to do practical tasks in order to take care of yourself and others, etc.) and with masculinity (I’ll think of something), but only those things associated with maleness are valued because devaluing women’s contributions to the world allows for women’s continued economic and social subjugation. My suggestion is that we do away with these stupid ideas of masculinity and femininity and start judging characteristics based on morality, utility, etc. and THEN decide whether something is worth doing. The behaviors I’ve outlined above fail the test, and not because they’re associated with masculinity, but because they’re rude and destructive.  The answer isn’t to “feminize” men or replace masculinity with femininity in the hierarchy, but rather to get rid of constraining gender roles AND the hierarchy so that we can all just be human and display whatever characteristics come comfortably to us. I still have some faith in the idea that human nature in its natural state isn’t quite as shitty as it is in the current hierarchical order. If you’re a dude and you think this reads like a portrait of an asshole and doesn’t reflect your behavior, then don’t give me shit, do something constructive and go tell it to men who do behave this way. I promise you won’t be hard pressed to find them.

Dov Charney is an MRA. Pardon me if I don’t faint with surprise.

27 Jan

Would you LOOK at this fucking American Apparel ad:

custom_1233073010441_dovIn case you can’t read that text, it says, “Women initiate most domestic violence, yet out of a thousand cases of domestic violence, maybe one is involving a man. And this has made a victim culture out of women.” That’s right, the world’s premier sexual harasser has, like, some really serious opinions about social issues. 

First of all, that statement doesn’t even make any sense. Is he saying that 999 of a thousand domestic violence charges are brought by women against women? If not, then more than one in a thousand cases “is involving a man.” How does “this” (whatever “this” is referring to) create a victim culture “out of” women. Wouldn’t it be a victim culture among women (if it weren’t total bullshit)? I’m pretty sure I’m not taking advice on serious social matters from a guy who can’t even form a coherent thought and doesn’t know that a Salvador Dali moustache isn’t attractive. 

 Horrible diction aside, there are some problems with Dov’s claims. How does he know that “women initiate most domestic violence”? Has there been a study I’m not aware of? Or is Dov just speaking from personal experience, letting us know that any time he’s been involved in violence against women, it’s been for a real good reason? And speaking of that, what, exactly, qualifies as “initiating” domestic violence? Striking first? Or simply being to mouthy? That kind of wording reeks of MRA reasoning, in which men can be excused for physically abusing partners who “push them to it” with their nagging. Dov, apparently, has forgotten that there is no excuse to hit another person, whether you are male or female, and that the idea of one partner “initiating” domestic violence is therefore a joke. “Initiation” does not require retaliation. 

He’s also brought out another MRA favorite, bemoaning the “culture of victimization” among women. MRAs love to claim that feminism, for rightly pointing out and resisting the abuses men commit against women, has turned otherwise “good women” into whiners. Nothing illustrates their unexamined sense of entitlement more than MRAs’ claims that women ought to be happy with what they’ve got and quit complaining. It’s often these types that will remind women how “lucky” we are that men have granted us the rights and privileges that we have now and that we ought to have a look at Afghanistan before we do any more complaining. Dov Charney, by making the absurd claim that a culture of victimization has arisen among women because they perceive domestic violence to be a problem, is proudly joining his MRA brothers in telling women we’ve gotten all we’re going to get, we have nothing to complain about, and we ought to shut the fuck up and get back to celebrating our “right” to huff dong for cash. 

I mean, look at the woman in the ad. I suppose Charney thought if he had a woman lying next to him, it’d prove just how right he is about what weenies us feminists are. The message: now here’s a real liberated woman, one who doesn’t go around complaining about domestic violence. She doesn’t invite domestic violence on herself because she’s docile and agreeable. She sees just how awesome it is to be a woman, what a sweet deal it is for her and for womankind that guys like me exist that will pay her to lay in a bed with me with almost no clothes on in support of my “women are unhappy because they won’t stay in their place, not because men abuse them” message.

Honestly, that woman looks drugged to me.

Here’s the last thing that struck me about this ad: what the fuck are we selling here? Stupid MRA libertarianism or ugly hipster clothing? This asshole, the CEO of the company, has come out of his gang bang emporium of an office to appear in one of his company’s ads and make a social and political statement, and this is what he chooses to say? This is the biggest social issue weighing on this guy’s mind? He’s so concerned with this MRA bullshit that it’s more important to him than selling us metallic leggings? Unbelievable. Whatever you may have thought of him before, there’s no longer any denying where this guy’s mind is at.

Please, I beg of you, don’t buy this guy’s clothes. If you won’t boycott American Apparel for the sake of shutting a bullshit hipster company down out of respect for aesthetics and genuine counterculturalism, then do it because he thinks women have no reason to feel put upon in a society in which people like him use their bodies as decorations, as means to sell products, and as fuck toys.

** UPDATE: It turns out this ad is a phony. But who cares? It’s a real quote from Charney, which proves that he is in fact an MRA, and it’s superimposed on a real AA ad.  I do, however, want to offer a serious reward to the person who find the creator of this ad for me. S/he’s a fucking genius. 

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India, land of bride burnings, has more progressive rape laws than we do. Surprise!

16 Jul

Apparently, the Indian Supreme Court has decided that a victim’s testimony is sufficient to convict a rapist and that no further corroboration should be required. From now on Indian women who have been raped will (supposedly) not have to prove that they broke a constant legal state of consent when they go to court. The Indian Supreme Court, you see, has decided that the trauma involved in going through the investigation and trial will most likely weed out any false accusations. There must not be any MRAs in India. From the article:

“She would be conscious of the danger of being ostracised by society and when in the face of these factors the crime is brought to light, there is an inbuilt assurance that the charge is genuine rather than fabricated,” the bench said.

It also said that the deposition of a rape victim must enjoy the same level of court’s confidence that the testimony of an injured person enjoys about the physical assault.

The bench held that even if a court is not able to believe the deposition of a rape victim, it should at best seek some evidence to assure itself of the deposition, instead of seeking independent corroboration.

You hear that? In India they afford rape victims’ testimony the same weight they give to that of assault victims. What a revolutionary idea.

I know India is a vastly different country than the US, and I know that there are serious social and financial consequences attached to admitting (Hear that? ADMITTING!) to having been raped, since doing so means admitting one is not a virgin (that such a thing is a concern is a problem in and of itself), but I find the legal reasoning behind this decision to be of interest considering the fact that in our own legal system 6% or less of rapes end with the rapist receiving any punishment.

I suppose I’ll start calling India a feminist utopia when we no longer hear of bride burnings, sati, dowries, and the fact that women are ostracized for having “lost their virginity” by being raped, but, on a few fronts, they’re still making us look bad.


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Just a thought (clipped from a response I made to a comment on an old post)

9 Jul

The problem these days is that men have (intentionally or otherwise) misinterpreted the meaning of equality. Men think they ought to be considered equally put upon simply because they can come up with an example of a time a man suffered. They, from their loftily oblivious position, don’t have to think very hard about the issue at hand. If they can come up with a single example to show that they, too, have at one time or another been victims, then they are off the hook and don’t need to acknowledge their privilege. They argue that if women want equality, then women have to be willing to give men equal room to whine about what they’ve been made to suffer. They don’t see the big picture, but rather each tiny incident as if it weren’t connected to larger social forces. Hence, you have men complaining about some overblown case of a false rape accusation but unwilling to confront the reality of what it means to be female in a culture in which women’s sexuality is seen as the property of men. Or you see men suing bars that have ladies’ night because it’s not fair to make men (who make more money than women) pay a cover when women don’t have to, taking no account of anything other than the “unfairness” of unequal cover charges. It’s similar to the whole, “If black people can say nigger, why can’t I?” bullshit. It’s utter tomfoolery, but it’s the crux of every MRA argument, this conception of equality that’s completely myopic (at best) and/or dishonest.


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Calculating risk: Should we avoid men?

5 Jul

Allecto has a post up that has gotten me to thinking. I used to watch To Catch A Predator with a friend, and we often speculated about the general male population and what percentage of them might be the kinds of guys we saw on the show. We came up with a 25-10-5 percent scheme, in which we surmised that 25% of men, if they were presented with the opportunity and were reasonably sure they wouldn’t get caught, would have sex with an adolescent girl, that 10% of men were one life crisis away from getting on the internet to seek out an adolescent girl to have sex with, and that 5% of men are currently on the internet seeking such. Real scientists, I know. We then went to Central Park and watched men walk by, trying to decide if they were 25, 10, or 5 percenters (not capital F, capital P Five Percenters). I admit that the whole thing was more about our own warped idea of humor than anything else, but I’ve started giving it more serious thought recently.

I’m generally not afraid of dudes, but I’m a 30-year-old woman at this point and I have yet to be mugged (I’m sure I’m up soon). That might be because I try to avoid getting into situations in which men can harm me, meaning I don’t hang out alone with dudes I don’t know very well. But I can think of about a zillion examples of times when dudes’ behavior has frightened me, whether harm came of it or not, and I’m generally more likely to feel threatened by men’s weird behavior than women’s.

I can already predict that there will be men who take offense to my bringing this subject up, but I’m going to have to ask them to calm down and think about what I’m saying, which is not that all men are dangerous, just that men are statistically more likely to be than women, especially toward women. I’m not arguing for any specific course of action, or for anything really, but rather exploring the idea of how we can know just how many men are dangerous, how we can figure out how to avoid the danger that some men pose, and what kinds of precautions are necessary and/or reasonable to take.

I know I often say that women shouldn’t have to alter our behavior to avoid being hurt by men, but I’m aware enough of how things work to know that, for now at least, that’s wishful thinking. Until the whole world listens to me and we raise an entire generation of people who treat each other like human beings, thus creating ourselves a little Nine Deuce-topia, I’d like to come up with a risk assessment and minimization plan.

What percentage of men are dangerous? Could it really be as high as 25%? More? How do we formulate such a statistic? We’d first have to figure out what “dangerous” means. I’d say it ought to include sexual predators of all stripes (and that includes men who coerce sex), domestic abusers, and men who are generally violent and abusive. How do we figure out, then, how many men have one or more of these tendencies? The only way I can think of to even attempt to get at such a figure would be through crime statistics, which would give us a very low figure that wouldn’t take into account all of the unpunished abuses that occur. We could use whatever logarithm government agencies use to figure out how many more crimes take place than are reported, but I still think that’d leave us with a lowball because a lot of abusive behavior exists in the “gray area” that the law can’t (or — more accurately — won’t) deal with (verbal abuse, sexual assaults that don’t leave evidence, etc.). Of course, not all men who pose a risk will abuse in all circumstances, so I guess we’d also have to figure out what kinds of men are dangerous in what kinds of situations.

I’ve gotten a lot of grief lately from people who think my rape law suggestions make the assumption that all men are rapists, but I’ve never made such a claim. I know not all men are rapists because I happen to know at least 5 that I hang out with regularly that have never raped anyone. I DON’T HATE MEN. I think most men are assholes (fuck, I think most women are assholes), but I don’t hate all of them. I honestly don’t really hate anybody (except maybe Diablo Cody and Chris Martin). This isn’t a discussion of whether men are evil, it’s a discussion of mathematical probabilities.  Just based on my own life experiences, I’d say that at least 1/4 of dudes (out of the probably thousands I’ve met) have had the potential to be threatening and/or aggressive enough to be considered abusive. Not good odds.

Could a quarter or more of men pose a potential risk to vulnerable women and children? If so, is it really all that unreasonable to avoid strange men or to avoid leaving children alone with men? Everyone has probably heard about airlines instituting policies in which single men will not be seated next to unaccompanied minors on planes. Is that unfair? I suppose if I were a dude who wasn’t dangerous it might bother me, might make me feel like I was being looked askance at. It might make me feel like I was being accused of something I didn’t do. It might feel like I was… a black guy or something. But is that really more important than women and childrens’ safety?

Like I said, I’m just sort of wondering aloud how we’d ever be able to calculate what kind of risk exists and figure out how to protect ourselves. Does someone with a more scientific education than I’ve got have any ideas?


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