Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Can I get an "amen"?

Ornamenting Away posts a brilliant open response to a "friend" who accused her of reacting "like a chihuahua" when he made sexist comments at a party and told her that women should just be able to laugh off comments like his. As a nice little bonus, this passage leads up to a punch line that neatly refutes the idea that women who react negatively to sexism "just need to get a sense of humor".
The thing is: From the minute I leave my house in the morning I am inundated by misogynistic messages, from the things I hear people say to the images I see all around me. For every one time that I make any sort of comment on these messages there are approximately 1,172 times that I’ve recognized something as sexist and not said anything. There are about 5,249 messages that I didn’t even pick up on.

Once I first really understood what the patriarchy was, it became the Framework. The Context. Everything fell into place and finally began to make sense. Once I was at that place, there was no going back to when I didn’t see and hear and feel a seething hatred of femaleness all around me. Feminism became the lens through which I viewed the world. And that’s that.

I am happy, or at the very least willing, to debate whether or not a certain act, behavior, word, or belief is inherently sexist or misogynistic. I am not, however, willing to debate the importance or necessity of feminism. Honestly, if you really truly think feminism is wrong, or that women just have it made these days and that we should suck it up and be grateful for the rights men have already granted us, then you’re a complete fucking tool. Period. No discussion necessary. I won’t ever entertain the notion, no matter how passionately you argue or how solid you think your points are. To try and argue with me about this would be like trying convince Neo that there is no Matrix.
You should go read the whole thing. In fact, she's got a series of posts that powerfully demonstrate the kinds of harassment, nastiness, and condescentions women have to face every single day from strangers, billboards, magazine ads, radios, televisions, movie screens, and pretty much every other form of social communication, including--yes--their "friends".

I've recently been encountering, both online and off, a particularly annoying phenomenon related to this kind of experience and would like to add a public service announcement. Folks, when a member of a group of people to which you do not belong tells you about negative experiences based on his or her membership in that group, please count to 10 before opening your mouth and uttering the following knee-jerk response: "But I've never seen/experienced that kind of behavior."

Let me explain something, 'kay? It's very likely that

1) you actually have seen that kind of behavior, but because you were not its target or did not recognize the social signals surrounding it, you were not able to see it for what it was.

2) if you have not experienced that behavior, perhaps that is because you are not a member of the group in question. For example, if you are a man and a woman tells you that she experiences street harassment on a daily basis, telling her that street harassment of that kind has never happened to you is nothing short of stupid. Why would you have experienced sexual harassment on the street, when street harassment is a form of social control aimed primarily at women and you aren't a woman?

Frankly, your need to defend the status quo, make yourself feel better by denying that you have social privileges others don't, and maintain your coping mechanisms isn't useful. It denies the legitimately difficult experiences of others and repeats the abuse by refusing to acknowledge it as real or trust the person you're speaking with. You become part of the problem and make yourself look like a gigantic ass in the process. So please just don't do it.