Archive for the 'Manly Men' category

What Constitutes Blatant Sexism of the Most Egregious Sort?

Jul 20 2011 Published by under Burns My Shorts, Manifestoes, Manly Men, Men Who Hate Women

I have not written a word in months, and barely read any blogs at all.  Even so the sorry outlines of ElevatorGate seeped into my consciousness.  If you don't know what I'm referring to, consider yourself lucky; if you need to find out, read Jennifer Ouellette's recent excellent post which talks about it in a broader context. I love everything about Jennifer's post and especially love her call to action at the end...and yet...I'm left brooding on part of it.  This part:

She was careful to say that she has not encountered blatant sexism of the most egregious sort, although she has endured unwelcome awkward flirting: a wink and a hand on the knee, lame attempts at playing “footsie” with her under the table during meetings, and of course, tacky double entendres. Even then, she cut the guys a lot of slack; it’s just social awkwardness, she rationalized, not a malicious attempt to make her feel uncomfortable — and yet, she does feel uncomfortable.

Ouellette is writing about a young woman who reports that she feels "constantly objectified" while working at CERN. Ouellette goes on to provide a very good discussion of the concept of a "chilly climate" and how it negatively affects women in science.  Yet I would argue that feeling "constantly objectified", having unwanted hands touching your body, goes something beyond a chilly climate and moves us into the territory of hostile work/learning environment.

What does constitute blatant sexism of the most egregious sort, if it does not include feeling constantly objectified, having men touch you when you don't want them to, and being treated like a sex object in professional settings?

Do we have to get raped to call it blatant sexism of the most egregious sort, and anything short of that is just a chilly climate?

Can we agree that rape is something beyond sexism - it is sexual assault, a crime - and that blatant sexism might include a whole host of things that fall short of rape but that are worse than a chilly climate?

Being subjected to unwanted touching means that your colleagues look at you primarily as a sexual object and moreover, a sexual object who is free game for their advances.  They need not ask beforehand, they need not establish consent - just reach out and touch someone!  If you like what you see, grab it and go.  After all, if you are rebuked, it can be written off as due to your social awkwardness.  Surely at no time in your twenty, thirty, forty years or more on this planet did you have the opportunity to learn any of the norms of human mating behavior, let alone how one conducts one's self in a professional setting.  You certainly have had NO opportunity to learn to think of women as human beings, that's for sure!!!

Ouellette includes in her post a link to this comic by Gabby Schulz, which is linked through the phrase "mirrored every internet comment thread".  Gabby's comic is titled "How every single discussion about sexism and woman-type stuff on the internet (and in real life) has ever happened and ever will happen, always, forever, until the earth finally falls into the sun. (Or until the patriarchy is dismantled.)"  But her whole blog post is titled "In which we betray our gender".  It may be worth thinking about why she gave it that title.

Here's the thing.  No matter what you say, no matter how nicely you say it, the d00ds are going to go batshit insane whenever you dare to suggest that sexism is afoot, and/or that one of their d00dly brethren has behaved poorly.  People who have some power and some relatively comfortable positions need to stop making excuses for the d00ds.  No, they aren't just socially awkward - they are fucking sexist assholes steeped in privilege who think they own any woman's body they see.  Ouellette gets this when she quotes the Social Network line that took my breath away when I saw the movie: “You’re going to go through life thinking girls don’t like you cuz you’re a nerd, when really it’s because you’re an asshole.”

But makes me gnash my teeth in despair that in the middle of her excellent post, Ouellette has to stop and write this:

Let me be clear: I like men, and enjoy their company.

Because OMG, their wittle feewings might be hurt if they weren't absolutely sure and reassured all the time that every woman on the planet likes them!  All of them!  All men!  Even the assholes!  We can't just talk about endemic sexism and horrible incidents of harassment, no, we have to also say, "but hey, you guys, you know, it's cool, because I like guys, and I like to fuck them and all, so don't worry, whatevs." In which we betray our gender. Because if you don't betray your gender that way, you are a man-hating feminazi.  And no woman wants to be that, nosiree!  Why, the very woman who is the subject of all that constant objectification at CERN, who is discussed at the start of Ouellette's post, declares

I did not expect that CERN would start me on the road to being a cynical feminist, a type of person I previously dismissed, but which I now understand.

Oh dear.  So, becoming aware of the fact that you are being constantly objectified and being subjected to unwanted touching, and not taken seriously as a professional, and making the mildest of complaints about this situation, is equivalent to being a "cynical feminist"?  It's not, like, standing up for yourself?  Demanding decent treatment?  Just, you know, being a regular feminist?  Which is a good thing?

Well, so let me be clear: I like men who deserve to be liked.  Men who are worthy of my respect.  Men who treat women with respect, as autonomous human beings.  Men who are not groping gaping assholes.  Men who can behave like professionals in the workplace and educational settings.  Men who don't assume that because someone has tits and a pussy, she must be there to provide visual and other pleasures, not for any other reason.  Men who understand that it is necessary to establish consent before engaging in any kind of sexual behavior.  Men who understand women in the workplace are there to work.  Men who will call out other men on bad behavior.  Men who don't need their little egos stroked every five seconds.  Men who aren't so terrified by women who challenge sexist behaviors that they feel a compulsion to vilify them.  Men who don't abuse little kids, rape women, coerce their sexual partners, or bully, beat, or emotionally abuse women.  Men who resist the urge to mansplain.

I don't care who you are - the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a tenured professor, some fancy-ass physicist at CERN, the Pope, or my own brother - if you can't meet these MINIMAL expectations of decent human behavior, why the hell are you walking around calling yourself a man in the first place?  What you really are, is a man who hates women.

63 responses so far

Women's Health: Cry Babies

This post is part of Scicurious's great idea to take a comprehensive look at an issue of Women's Health, and the advice offered therein for health, sex, love, dating, etc. I'm dealing with the article on Cry Babies, by Joel Stein, filed under Sex and Love.

My dad was a "life of the party" sort of guy, and the kind of dad you could count on to put down the camera and produce an oversized white handkerchief to mop up the blood from your freshly gashed knee on the way into church on First Communion day.  He might forget to straighten your veil, which would be crooked in the photos, but he would comfort and calm you, stop the bleeding, and make sure you could go on with the procession into church.

Only once in my life did I see my dad cry.  Continue Reading »

20 responses so far

Smile, Boys! It Would Make The World So Much Prettier For Us Women!

The other day, a male friend of mine was at the grocery store in the check out line. He was not feeling particularly happy, and, I guess, was frowning a little. A dude in line behind him tapped him on his shoulder to get his attention and when he turned around, the dude said, in a bright voice, "You dropped something," and was pointing to the floor. My male friend looked down and said, "I don't see anything." The dude then told him, "You dropped your smile." My male friend was not amused. He turned around going back to his business saying, "Oh, OK." The man proceeded to walk away mumbling, "Don't look so serious. It's only the grocery store."
That doesn't sound right, does it?
No, because it really happened to a woman. There, that feels more...normal, doesn't it?
Isis got a letter from a PhD student who was told in a teaching evaluation that she needs to smile more. Isis gave her some excellent advice but I want to address this whole "needs to smile more" issue from a different angle.

Continue Reading »

138 responses so far

You Femsplainers Just See Sexism Everywhere

Over at the mansplaining thread, you can read literally hundreds of hilarious, annoying, frustrating, heartbreaking stories of how women are constantly subjected to intrusive, incessant, insensitive, inane mansplaining. Interspersed you will also find comments from d00dly d00ds whinging away about how awful it is that women are talking so MEAN about men, and their mansplanations about how mansplaining doesn't exist. Then some douche tried to coin the phrase femsplaining.
Femsplaining, as best I can tell, is a phenomenon that arises in the following manner:

Continue Reading »

168 responses so far

The Thread That Keeps On Giving...

That mansplainer thread just won't quit - it is the gift that keeps on giving. Well, if you can call continuing recitations of the endless ways women are constantly mansplained by the d00dly mainsplainers of the world a "gift". Along with the mansplainer d00ds who show up to mansplain how mansplaining does not exist, should not be called mansplaining if it does exist, is a benign and non-sexist practice if it does exist, and anyway, I THOUGHT THIS WAS SCIENCEBLOGS WHAT ABOUT THE SCIENCE DEAR GOD WILL NO ONE THINK OF THE POOR SCIENCE????
Which brings us to Ace's most excellent and apropos comment:

Is there another word like manventing for conjuring elaborate situations in your head that explain away any situations that contradict your "facts"? Ex: I was mansplained to that the reason one of my homework questions was wrong was not because I had simply lost track of a wayward negative sign, but because women cannot understand physics with their poor tiny non-spatial brains. Yet when I pointed out that that I had scored roughly 20% higher in physics on our (non-curved) graduation exams than he, he manvented the "fact" that the government adjusts womens' scores in math and science to make them feel better. Or something. Because I didn't actually write a perfect exam, I just scored higher than the rest of the inferior females.

You cannot make this shit up. Oh wait, you can. If you are a manventer.
Ladies of the mansplainer thread, I am happy that you have found community, and a word for that which has so plagued your existence. Naming experience is so very important - once we can give a name to what is happening to us, it has a little less power over us, at least a little less power to make us feel so crazy about it. There's a whole category on this blog called "naming experience" to reflect that importance. I'm just sorry that there are so many of you, and that your unhappy mansplaining experiences are so varied and many.
Here's hoping all your mansplainers, with their manvented facts, develop a long-lasting case of laryngitis. I'm talking years-long. May you enjoy the sweet sounds of mansplaining silence, at least for awhile in this month celebrating women's history.

23 responses so far

"The Myth of Black Disingenuity": Exploring the Intersection of African American History and the History of Technology

I failed to produce this post in time for DNLee's Diversity in Science carnival - Black History Month: Broadening STEM Participation at Every Level. That's mostly because I had a bunch of personal stuff going on in the past couple weeks that just wouldn't leave me alone. I think I'll be back to more regular blogging now.
You might have already read my brief post on Hercules, the chef enslaved by George Washington who eventually escaped to freedom. In it I noted "It was no small thing to be a chef under such circumstances, and the degree of technical skill required was surely astonishing." Even the highest tech 18th century kitchen still demanded a range and depth of technical competence that today's average pampered cook just can't imagine.
When I read about Hercules in that fantastic set of articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer, I might not have given much thought to the degree of technical skill he must have possessed to turn out state dinners in such circumstances. What put me in the state of mind to ponder such matters was a book I had recently begun browsing: A Hammer in Their Hands: A Documentary History of Technology and the African-American Experience, ed. Carroll Pursell. This book would be worth its price if only for the introductory essay which contextualizes the collection of primary sources that follows with the intersection of African-American history and the history of technology, all in a few short pages. Pursell speaks of the "prehistories" of these fields, and notes the following:

Continue Reading »

11 responses so far

Maternal Sentimentality and "The Box"

Not that it matters much with this dreadful film, but if you're worried about spoilers, don't read this post till you've seen the movie. You've been warned. Proceed past the jump at your own risk. Movie trailer can be found here.

Continue Reading »

12 responses so far

Cooking: A Primitive Protection Racket

Jun 24 2009 Published by under Gendering Technology, Manly Men, What They're Saying has John Horgan interviewing Richard Wrangham of Harvard on a variety of topics related to his new book Catching Fire. The part of interest to me - and to our ongoing discussion on patriarchy - relates to cooking as a "primitive protection racket" in which men agree to protect women's food supply in return for being fed so they can just hang out and do manly shit. It's a fascinating discussion, if you can get past Horgan giggling in sheepish delight every time Wrangham points out what a shitty deal patriarchy is for women.
Interestingly, this section of the interview is advertised as "ancient connections between food and sex" but it would more properly be described as "ancient connections between food and the sexual division of labor". I guess "sex" is more sexy and sells better than "sexual division of labor". Because Wrangham clearly points out that the sexual division of labor that involves women cooking and feeding men is NOT related to who's having sex with whom.
He also clearly makes the point that this sexual division of labor is not a result of our biology, but a consequence of a choice of a particular set of social relations - one of which, in modern industrial societies, we have chosen in many ways to undo. Single men are able to feed themselves, if only by ordering pizza, and married men often do the cooking these days.

Incidentally, the mini-review of Wrangham's book on Amazon illustrates why the term "mankind" is not an appropriate substitute for "humankind":

By making food more digestible and easier to extract energy from, Wrangham reasons, cooking enabled hominids' jaws, teeth and guts to shrink, freeing up calories to fuel their expanding brains. It also gave rise to pair bonding and table manners, and liberated mankind from the drudgery of chewing (while chaining womankind to the stove).

The second sentence is trying to have its cake and eat it, too. It sounds sort of nice on first glance with that oppositional mankind and womankind. Until you realize that those who were liberated from the drudgery of chewing were, well, everyone, women as well as men. The sentence sounds like it's working to say men got liberated from x while women got chained to y by the move to cooking, but that's not what happened. Humans got liberated from x, while simultaneously, a subset of humans, women, got chained to y. Using the term humankind would make it clearer that women simultaneously benefited from and were harmed by the move to cooked food. Using mankind as a substitute for humankind attempts to work both meanings into this sentence. First, the fuller and true meaning, that humans benefited from something that also harmed a subset of humans. Second, the less true oppositional meaning that men (only) gained and women were harmed. That second oppositional meaning also serves to reinforce the notion that mankind really means men and that women are a special (lesser) case of mankind - a subtextual meaning that the use of the word humankind in this instance would not convey.

20 responses so far

Zuska's Outreach Project For D00dly D00ds

Well, that's quite a vigorous discussion we've all been having these past few days over proto-feminist d00ds, no? I am grateful to you all for your participation and for the many good suggestions made to help proto-feminist d00ds along the path of growth. In case some of you missed it, Comrade Physioprof offered his own handy-dandy guide for d00dly commenters over at Isis's place.
With all the interest in these two posts, I'm thinking that maybe we need to spend a little more time talking to/with/for the d00dly d00ds. Herewith, I am proposing Zuska's Outreach Project For D00dly D00ds. Specifically, I'm going to suggest that those of you who are interested, get a copy of Allan Johnson's The Gender Knot and read along with me. We'll take a chapter a week and discuss here on blog for everyone's pleasure and enlightenment. Discussion of first chapter to commence on Wednesday, May 27, which for you U.S. folks is the Wednesday after Memorial Day weekend. Now you have something to read while grilling the burgers during the cookout.

14 responses so far

What Should a 20-year-old Proto-Feminist Guy Be Reading?

In the midst of a vigorous discussion on my last post, reader Deatkin expressed his frustrations as to how he might engage in a positive manner in a discussion of feminist issues. In this case, it was not the hairy-legged man-hating feminazi Zuska who was intimidating; it was Comrade Physioprof.

Now, I'm perfectly willing to accept that the problem lies with me on this... In sum, I may simply be too immature (I'm 20 and a mere undergraduate) to think broadly and imaginatively enough on feminist issues in order for me to reach a conclusion that somebody such as [Comrade Physioprof] would find satisfactory... But instead of attributing comments that you perceive as off-base to some insidious, malignant strain of male paternalism, isn't it more likely that the person is someone like me, genuinely troubled by all the ways in which women are inhibited and made uncomfortable by men in society, but uncertain as to what attitudes we could hold that women would appreciate? Isn't it possible that people like me are actually afraid that self-described male champions of feminism such as yourself will ridicule our attempts to communicate solidarity with feminism and embarrass us in front of the women we are trying to support? That's definitely the case for me.I feel that most men (in my age group, at least) want to support women's issues, and maybe it is our fault if we support them inappropriately, but it is definitely your fault if we persist in our ways because you mocked rather than enlightened us. I would appreciate, but am certainly not demanding, a comment, detailing some of the ways in which you explicitly and constructively promote feminism in general and women in academia in particular, and providing some sort of template from which a male such as myself could go about doing the same.

I will not go so far as to agree with Deatkin that it is CPP's fault (or anyone else's fault) if he "persists in his ways" because of mocking or anything else. If one is committed to social justice and equity, then one must proceed down that path no matter what obstacles, mocking included, one runs into. Getting your feelings hurt is not sufficient cause to stop educating yourself about how to be a better human being.
But I do think we can make the effort to lend a brother a hand now and then, no? Pass along some good advice, point them to sources of information. I'm not suggesting we baby them and spoon feed them every bit of information they need to have. Just sayin', I didn't come to my gloriously enlightened feminist state all on my own. I had teachers. I took classes. I had books. I had a biweekly reading group of fab feminist babes who pushed me to think.
So, Deatkin, here are Zuska's Guidelines For Dudely Proto-Feminist Development:

  1. Get thee to a bookstore. Or online to Amazon, and purchase for thyself a copy of Allan Johnson's The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy. You may also wish to read his Privilege Power and Difference. Mr. Johnson explains to d00ds how being a feminist man does not make your balls shrivel and penis drop off. He explains how patriarchy is actually bad for men, too. I think it's good for men to hear another man talking about these issues.
  2. Taketh thee an introductory women's studies course. And while in said course, try to listen more than speak. When speaking, try to ask questions to clarify points and learn more, rather than to pontificate and explain things to the ladies. If you behave in this manner, you may find that the ladies will occasionally ask you for your perspective. Even if they don't, you will learn a hell of a lot just by listening and reading. I'm not just talking pie in the sky theory, either. You may learn, for example, as one young man I know did, about the existence of the clitoris and its central role in the female orgasm. Women's studies classes are life-changers, I'm tellin' ya.
  3. Read thou freely and often amongst the feminist blogs. You will want to read the women-and-science blogs, of course, if you are a scientist (see here and here for a comprehensive list of links) but you will also want to read others. Bitch, PhD is a good one. Feministe (and anything on their fabulous blogroll), Shakesville, and, let us not forget, Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog. Read Echidne's Feminism Series.

This should give you a good start. Try to remember that it's more or less a lifelong process, this un-learning of the prejudices and stereotypes we breathe in daily, that our brains have bathed in since birth. It's a little like gardening. You work the soil, you put in the best-looking plants you can get your hands on, but it's all going to go to hell if you don't water and weed regularly. It's so very easy to fall back into old stereotypes; gender schemas aren't obvious unless you are on the lookout for them. (And check out these tutorials on gender schemas.)
Readers, I ask you: what other resources would you recommend to a 20-year-old proto-feminist d00d? What have you read that was helpful in developing your own feminist viewpoints? Dudes, how did your own feminist journey begin? Leave your stories in the comments, please!

71 responses so far

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