Friday, April 07, 2006

Things that piss me off #132

I'm back! (to ranting)

Do you notice that when talking about street harrassment or porn or things that dehumanise and exploit women with men we always have to relate these random women to them. Like "that's someone's mom or sister or daughter." Because we can't be human in our own right, we need to be human in relation to men. I can't say: "stop watching porn it's exploiting women" with the same impact that the statement has when I say: "stop watching porn b/c you could be exploiting your daughter/sister/girlfried/mother/etc". Why the hell should I have to say that? Why can't I be a treated as a person withoug having to resort to relating my status to other men? I know it's more effective that way, but really that's the problem.

I think most things come back to the points I made way back in my post about Compulsive masculinity that men categorise us. All feminists are aware of this. There's the sluts/whores/"loose women" who appear in porn or who like to have sex, there's the girlfriend (to this I will add relatives as well) who are pedestalised, and then there is the challenge. That would be me: the woman who is intellegent (and doesn't hide it), who is autonomous, and who the men can be friends with or even sleep with, but who in the end are women who challenge them too much and will never be in the girlfriend category. The last 2 groups are superficial respect, b/c if they respected us there wouldn't be these classifications or these tiny pedestals for us to stand on (or try to smash).

Every time someone does the "you shouldn't harrass women on the street b/c that woman is someone's (pick one of the terms above: sister/etc)" I die a little inside. It kills me because I know that that's the only way some men will listen: to respect other men's property. Can't disrespect the man by disrespecting his sister/gf/whatever. And if this method did *actually* work I think that I can guarentee we wouldn't be living in the pornographised culture that we currently have. Why? Because we wouldn't be exploiting other men's property, I mean, relatives or love interests. So it doesn't work, but it seems to work for a time until our culture and pro-porn 'feminists' tell these guys that yes we want to be exploited and that we choose it. (OK< so the pro-porners are saying that we find it liberating, but I guarentee that the guys are still thinking of the women in porn not as liberated, but as some [insert anti-woman slur like slut here].) Then they can safely move women into their correct categories and feel safe in the idea that their gf/mother/sister/daughter would never be one of those women, you know, the ones with "loose" morals.

Now sometimes this works. Sometimes guys wake up and go "OH MY GOD!!! I never thought of it that way!!" They need the relation b/c many of these things they will never experience themselves. But why? I don't need to experience racism personally to know that it's horribly cruel, fucked up and wrong. Doesn't matter what your skin colour is, we're all PEOPLE for chrissakes. People all deserve to be treated as such, and as equals. So why can't men do this? Why can't men see women and understand that we're people. I know, I know, social conditioning blah blah, but there are scores of people who have some sembleance of an understanding about oppression and basic human rights (decency) what's so fucking hard about extending that to women? (And I AM talking about the left here you fuckers.)

And just to talk about my favourite topic for a second: if burlesque has nothing to do with men's sexuality and all about the women on stage expressing themselves how many men would go and watch their sisters? Seriously, none, b/c burlesque is not about art or performing, it's about performing sexually for men. FOR MEN. Need that again? Burlesque is about PERFORMING FOR MEN. Ok, now that we got that cleared up. I have no problems with getting up and performing my sexuality, but it's so far outside the norm that it's not assumed to be sexual. My relatives have seen it. Why? I'm a clown. I love making an ass out of myself. That is the cornerstone of my sexuality. Me being me and having fun. (And when I say me being me, I mean the me who pushed through all those ideas that I was raised with about being sexy, etc. Me being who it took me years and missteps to find. And I must say, at least with regards to my sexuality I feel very confident that it is something I came to on my terms without (or because of) societies influences.) My entire sexuality is about me being silly. I can do it anywhere I want, but it's not me performing for others: it's me performing for me and so I am exempt from the overt sexual exploitation (for the most part...people really like clowns) that comes with performances like burlesque or 'sexy' fire dancing or what have you. (See how slyly I worked that in there? huh, huh?)

Actually the next time there's a burlesque show that I happen to catch I think that letting everyone know that these women are indeed someone's sister/gf/mother/daughter /etc. I wonder how they'll take it. Do you think they'll like to hear that?


virginia dare said...

very nice. i usually don't read long rants. yours was brilliant.

manxome said...

I remember thinking the same thing when reading something lately: why does someone have to imagine it happening to a more "valued" member of that class in order to have more respect?

It seems privilege is what keeps one from identifying with an oppressed class. It's easier to distance yourself from it than it is to try to understand the experience, especially if your class gains from it.

On the other hand, it seems that if you are a member of any oppressed class, it's almost a no-brainer to be able to extend that experience in order to find a way to identify with another's plight. It's what you do, I suppose, because there is some aspect that is familiar, and that touches you. It also might be possible because you know how much you'd want to be heard in the same way. You'd be more likely to gravitate toward understanding rather than distancing. It's also likely that you aren't in a class that directly gains from the other's oppression. I would extend this to caregivers too, as they advocate for and experience a lot of daily stuff practically through the eyes of the person they care for.

It's so easy for white males, in this case, to distance themselves from all of it. They can't "identify" because they are not of another race, they are not female, and it's darned hard to change those things. Unless they've grown up with a mentally challenged sibling of experienced poverty over a long period, for example, there is overall a lot less for them to draw upon in order to find a way to identify.

It's not an excuse, of course, it's just harder. So you are left with "imagine she's your sister" and crap like that. If it's their sister, it's still not THEM. Seems the only way to get it across is to find a way to make them imagine it can be them.

Andrea said...


lost clown said...

manxome-exactly. Patricia Hill Collins wrote something about how you need to marginalised before you can see your own or others oppression. (Obviously not a direct quote-I haven't read the book in a few years.)

I agree with both you and her, but it's still frustrating especially when the people are activists or 'anarchists' who claim to be aware of oppression, etc. Then it really pisses me off.

Terry said...

YES! So many things end up being cast as exceptions: women are garbage but not my sister or my mother. They're "exceptions." Part of it is the possession thing, like you said, but I think it's the same old racist argument that any number of "exceptions" of your acquaintance but that doesn't invalidate the racist rule.

What this reasoning does to to encourage the harasser to make an exception, not examine their "rules."

spotted elephant said...

I'm surprised that strategy (what if it was your wife/daughter etc.) doesn't backfire. I'm surprised men don't take this argument and say "Well if she was being so nasty, she *deserves* to be objectified etc.

Few things make me sicker than a sexist sensitive liberal man.

Kim said...

"stop watching porn b/c you could be exploiting your daughter/sister/girlfried/mother/etc". Why the hell should I have to say that? "

This is so TRUE! Exactly! I've had similar sentences in my head often when posting ie: Guys, just think, this could be your sister, ect." and don't write them because how hard is to see a human suffering without all these spoon-fed, pre-chewed "Now do you understand me, dearie?" analogies.

SE: "Few things make me sicker than a sexist sensitive liberal man." THIS made me laugh out loud! Indeed!

Ginger said...


hexyhex said...

Excellent point on the mother/sister/property dynamic. Hrmm... I think I have some musing to do on that one.

Mickle said...

The corrolary to this is that the same guys (sometimes women) will use it when discussing things like parental notification. "But what if it was your daughter!?"

They are completely oblivious to the fact that we don't need to have a relationship with the hypothetical woman in question in order to consider her worth caring about. Which means they also completely miss the part where we empathise with the daughter as well as the mother and father, and so such arguements do nothing more than reveal their own biases.

monikaj said...

Brilliant rant. It can be extended, too. For example, when nations fight in wars they are broadly “protecting” something, usually their (possessive) land (which is generally characterized using feminine adjectives) and women and children (weak, vulnerable, needing something strong to guide them). In this way, nationalistic rhetoric puts their land and their women up on pedestals, no differently than some men put their girlfriends up on pedestals and have to “protect” them. Taking it further, rape in war is a way to truly violate the enemy because takes advantage of the thing (yes, object) they are striving to protect (their women). This concept of women/femininity viewed only vis-à-vis a relationship to man is, I believe, a cornerstone of modern political theory, hegemonic masculinity and nationalism. This makes peoples comments about “that could be your sister/mother/girlfriend not so surprising because this is done at so many levels in so many arenas. It is indeed infuriating.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work »

Jen said...

I'm in a ranting mood myself and everything you said it TOTALLY true! I fall into that third category all the time, and its just not right! Men are not aware of what they do, it pisses me off SO bad!