Tag Archives: Sexism

OK, You Hate Public Marriage Proposals: Now Please Have a Seat

He Zi Proposal

Diver He Zi (R) accepts Qin Kai’s offer to continue ruining her life in public. CBC

On August 14, 2016, Olympic diver He Zi won the silver medal in the women’s 3M springboard. Right after the medal ceremony, fellow diver and boyfriend of six years, Qin Kai, proposed to her. She said yes.

One would think that all of the above facts would be cause for universal celebration, but in these early days of the 21st century it has become quite apparent that WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.

In some quarters, the fact that Qin chose the moment representing the ultimate recognition of He’s struggle and culmination of her athletic efforts over the last four years to ask for her hand in marriage was disrespectful, egocentric, and controlling. It was yet another example of a man trampling the efforts of woman so as to fix the public gaze firmly on him and announce her ultimate subjugation. “Check out the look on her face,” they say. “She clearly wasn’t into it!”  “She only said yes out of embarrassment!”

Get the fuck out of here. Now.

OK. That response was a bit subtle, so here are a few more thoughts on this particular topic.

A. It’s disturbing that folks are so willing to jump to conclusions about He Zi’s feelings or the nature of their relationship dynamics based on a second or two of facial expressions (or a manipulatively chosen still). If you listen to her talk about it here, she explains that what you’re witnessing is the face of a genuinely surprised woman, nervous about making the right decision. Holy shit, she’s human!

In a subsequent interview, when asked whether she’d like to talk about her medal win or engagement first, she immediately replied, “I feel that my happiness now will make up for the loss of the gold medal.” In the same conversation, questioned about their future in diving, she stated, “We have been through a lot in the past few years…we must have a good rest first.” Qin, as sickeningly overbearing as ever, only replied, “My answer must be the same as hers.” Later, he goes on to say, “I will follow whatever her choice is,” while she, clearly intimidated by her fiancé’s dominating presence, remarked demurely, “He must abide by my decisions.”

Somebody please rescue her from this abusive relationship ASAP.

B. There’s a sizable group of women who enjoy public proposals. Take a look at the reaction of He’s fellow medal winners when this egregious act of sexism went down:

Cagnotto_Tingmao_Proposal Reaction

Tania Cagnotto (L) and Shi Tingmao show unrestrained delight at their competitor’s humiliation. AFP/Getty

Damned traitors.

People like ostentatious displays of commitment. Although one leading proposal service company (yes, these fuckers exist) has seen a flattening of demand for public proposals, they still represent half of their business…meaning it’s a HUGE chunk of their revenue and that it used to be MOST of it. And by the way, a public proposal is any invitation to marriage that occurs in a public venue. It need not be on the Jumbotron at Yankee Stadium; the middle of a Red Lobster in Des Moines, Iowa counts, too.

I’d also point to the preponderance of Facebook posts with multii-angled pics of diamond rings on freshly manicured hands as another proxy for evidence of many women’s comfort with public displays of the intention to marry. Seriously, they give shots of drooling babies a hellified run for their money.

C. While there are certainly people who make public proposals because they’re egomaniacs, there are plenty of folks engaging in such shenanigans in order to please would-be wives and boldly declare their love. Perhaps that’s what Marjorie Enya was doing on August 8th when she headed onto a field post-match with balloons and—GASP!—a microphone to ask Isadora Cerullo, her rugby playing girlfriend, for her hand in marriage. But hey, why guess when she told us herself?

enya_cerullo_proposal

Cerullo (R) and Enya share an entirely inappropriate kiss in an Olympic setting. Reuters

Interviewed afterward, Enya said, “As soon as I knew she was in the squad I thought, ‘I have to make this special’…She is the love of my life…I wanted to show people that love wins.” Yeah, it was a woman who set off the marriage proposals at the 2016 Olympic games.

Selfish bastard.

I’ll leave you with a closing thought. After articulating this POV on Facebook, one of my female friends earnestly asked, “Who hurt you?” Another queried me privately regarding the “noise about the proposal” and whether someone had rejected mine. Neither was trying to be insensitive, but just stop for a second and imagine the fallout if a man responded to a woman during a discussion about relationships in such a patronizing and dismissive manner.

Having said that, I’ve never proposed to anyone. No personally experienced rejection motivated me to write this. Instead, this essay is an effort to expose the doublethink that allows questions such as those posed above even to exist. The Wedding Industrial Complex is built on stoking women’s desires for the fairytale ending, and that ending begins with the way in which a man asks the Princess to become his Queen. For those on the quest for that movie-worthy proposal, I say may the odds be forever in your muphuckin’ favor. Personally, I accept my feminist comrades’ invitation to join the Minimalist Proposal Movement.

Are there local chapters and shit?

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Holleration and Harassment on the Streets of New York

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh/Huffington Post

There are men who believe that come hither witticisms such as, “Must be jelly, ‘cause jam don’t shake like that,” “You’ve got a great future behind you,” and “COTDAMN THEM SOME BIG ASS TITTIES,” might actually induce a woman to produce a bodily fluid other than vomit. Most of us know that they’re wrong. The thing is, fellow penis-pushers, “Hi, how are you?” and “Good evening, beautiful,” are now considered cringeworthy microaggressions, too.

That’s the major lesson I gleaned from the Hollaback street harassment video that’s been bouncing around for the last few days. It’s bad news for regular cats like me who are only occasionally creepy and who really try not to contribute to women’s sexism-related stress. Heaven knows y’all have enough going on as it is, what with trying to figure out what shade of lipstick goes best with your new Givenchy Antigona bag and all. Unfortunately, Hollaback makes no distinction between what’s complimentary, neutral, or offensive, so we can only assume that everything that they show is presented as an example of gross male behavior.

Lucky for you, being the good little amateur social scientist that I am, I took a closer look. I watched the video at least 10 times, carefully tallying each statement that I heard, assigning them to positive, neutral, and negative categories. In the end, I came up with 45 separate statements, classifying 18 of them as positive, 3 as neutral, and 24 as negative. (If you want to nitpick the spreadsheet I used to log each statement then be my guest, hotshot.) While 24 sexist comments are about 24 too many, the fact that I would characterize nearly half of the statements as non-problematic kind of disturbed me. Are some women overreacting, or am I just being phallically insensitive?

I ended up concluding that both answers are likely true.

I find it hard to believe that anyone could paint those 21 comments I labeled positive or neutral as sexist in good faith. On Facebook, a woman commented that “all that false politeness is definitely swaghili for ‘Hi, you want some dick possibly maybe?’” First off, “swaghili”? Second, here’s a newsflash: 90% of the compliments a woman has ever received from an unrelated man about her nice dress, great hair, or perfect face were preceded by a fantasy of removing said nice dress, pulling said great hair, or twisting said perfect face into an ecstatic grimace. Still, you can’t punish a person for thoughtcrimes—yet—and besides, there’s nothing wrong with sexual desire in and of itself. If a woman is offended just because she can sense that a man is turned on by her, it’s not his fault. Right? Well, no, but, I can understand why she might feel that way.

Unfortunately, it’s become difficult for a lot of women to differentiate between kind words from an admirer and the prurient drivel of a sleaze: the din from the latter is simply too deafening. Shit is so out of hand that some women are compelled to question not just the motivation for advances, but the very nature of communication from any unknown man. It’s as if the invisible expanse that transmits positive energy from man to woman through good game, which I’ll call The Hollerational Field, has been unnaturally warped by bad actors.

Instead of seeing a colorful pitchman for a shady money lending establishment, we see a weird old dude flagrantly objectifying a passing woman. (“I just found a thousand dollars,” he says as he holds out what looks to be money at 1:15. Found. Not saw.) At 0:50, instead of seeing a polite young man bid an attractive lady good morning and continue on the path along which he already happened to be walking (this “scene” starts and ends with our heroine and her would-be antagonist walking east on 125th St.), we see a male threatening a female by invading her personal space for five scary minutes. Either classification could be true, but an anger that has been honed to a fine point by fear presses hard into women’s backs, nudging them toward the harassment side of the room. The good guys didn’t contribute to this development, but if we care about our sisters then we do have to shoulder the burden of the existing reality.

So, I try not to stare. (Waiting until she can’t see me and then rubbernecking until I almost run into a street sign doesn’t count as staring, by the way.) If the power of the gonads is just too difficult to resist and I find that I absolutely must compliment a woman, I raise my voice like 1.5 octaves and smile like a Mormon. And if I’m in a bar and a woman asks me to pretend like we’re together in order to throw off an unwanted pursuer, I do it…even if she’s not cute. It’s all in an effort to balance the scales.

The good news is that there’s still some room for wholesome street-level holleration. A few years ago, I saw a bombshell walking down a busy New York City street and let her pass me by. As luck would have it, I peeped her again the very next day, and wasn’t about to let history repeat itself. I literally ran half an avenue block to catch up, calling out to catch her attention. When I reached her, I looked her in her big, brown eyes and told her she was gorgeous, amongst other things. Not wildly inventive, true, but I delivered it with Clintonian conviction, and we ended up dating for almost two years. True story. Then again, she broke my heart, so maybe I should’ve just asked if she had a mirror in her pants and kept it moving.

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Am I Sexist?

“What?  You think I wanted to do a bit with this asshole?  It’s called a career move, bitches!”

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It’s International Women’s Day, and I as I actively reflect on the substantial impact that women have had in my life, something I’ve been mulling over since the 85th Academy Awards is still circling the drain in my head. See, Seth MacFarlane hosted, and he delivered his sarcastic brand of genteel, macho humor on Oscar night.  I thought he did a pretty good job, which is why I was honestly disturbed when I found out that some critics were panning his performance as sexist.

I’m not going to recount his performance here, partly because it happened eons ago in internet time, but more importantly because there was nothing really new or surprising about MacFarlane’s material.  In fact, it was pretty damned tame in comparison to the jokes regularly thrown around on his own shows, and I LOVE that stuff.  And that got me questioning whether I’m unknowingly guilty of being some kind of male chauvinist.

That thought kinda chafes my self-concept since I actually consider myself something of an nontraditional feminist.  In fact, I sometimes feel as though I take gender equality more seriously than some women.  With that said, I stand firm on the belief that men and women are absolutely, positively, freaking different, and those differences lead to experiences that many of us encounter at some point in our relationships, at least in the straight variety.  Men are inconsiderate and women nag.  Men are insensitive and women are overemotional.  Men are unfaithful, or at least want to be, and so are women…but women are crafty little fucks, and men are too self-absorbed to notice.

Anyway, it seems only natural to point out these asymmetries for laughs.  If the joker happens to be a man, then his jokes will likely be from the typical male’s POV.  So when I hear a female comic joking about how men are pigs, I don’t get my vasa deferentia all in a tangle.  I say big whoop. It doesn’t mean that every man and woman fits neatly into those boxes, that they display those characteristics all the time, or that those traits aren’t socialized.  Regardless, the shit is real, and it can be damned funny.  Unfortunately, that rationalization doesn’t get me off the hook for enjoying the other side of MacFarlane’s guy-friendly humor, the side that glories in the female form.  He’s not alone in this, of course.

One of my favorite examples comes from the late comic Patrice O’Neal, who dared to wonder aloud why we don’t implement a National Sexual Harassment Day to let guys just get it off their chest, one day a year.  Buy a colleague some flowers or candy, engage in your normal small talk, then ask her if she wouldn’t mind playing a little flesh flute in the bathroom.  No harm, no foul, ’cause it’s Harassment Day!

I promise, it’s funny when he says it.

Look, there’s no doubt in my mind that we live in a sexist society, so does enjoying, promoting, and even creating that kind of humor mean that I’m an unwilling co-conspirator with card-carrying members of NO MA’AM? I don’t think so.  As a thinking man, I find comedy like that funny for two reasons.

First, the sentiment that he’s expressing is just embarrassingly true.  If you are a woman with anything remotely resembling a physically attractive attribute, please know that dudes have imagined kissing, groping, or otherwise manipulating said attribute ad nauseum.  And I mean that ad nauseum part literally. Dude could be about to leave the office with a 102 degree temp, but if you told him you were gonna give him a cubicle lap dance he’d probably sit right back down and reposition the trash bin just in case.  They’d never let you know that though, ’cause they don’t want you to think that they’re a creep…plus they probably enjoy the benefits of gainful employment aside from surreptitiously observing you from behind at the water fountain.

The second, more important reason why it’s funny though is because it underscores the pitifully comic way that men are constantly bombarded by their physical attractions.  That’s right, we’re the real butt of that joke. It’s like, “Ladies, we’re basically one step above Pavlov’s dog.  Throw us a bone, please.  We’re barely holding it together over here.”

Now am I saying that women have nothing else to offer us besides their bodies?  Absolutely not.  Am I saying that it’s cool to draw attention to their physiques just for a laugh, no matter the cost?  No way.  A catcall on the street ain’t a joke (though all male to female street commentary ain’t a catcall either), and a random sexual advance under cover of an insipid pick-up line does not the stuff of humor make.  What I’m saying is that when a man makes an artful jest, carefully constructed and thoughtful, but firmly centered on his lust for a particular woman or women in general, the joke is actually on him.  No matter what he says at the end, the true punchline is that he found himself in the presence of beautyan ethereal, intoxicating, inspiring substanceand the only thing that he could do to relate its effect on him was to string together some silly little words.

I’m not a sexist.  I’m just another schmuck that happens to be attracted to women, and even though that fact is sometimes the cause of great frustration, it always eventually makes me laugh.  The hope is that when it does, you do, too.

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Stand Up!

“I’ve got your good old days RIGHT HERE.”

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There are some topics for which controversy is entirely expected and perhaps even suitable due to their very nature. Abortion is one, and this makes sense when one reflects on the fact that a human life is arguably at stake. Universal health care is another in that it forces us to question the limits of government authority and responsibility. One topic that is absolutely undeserving of any controversy whatsoever in the 21st century is the value of chivalry, however. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either benighted, sexist, or both.

This brings me to a discussion I had on Facebook earlier this week.

Lawrence Adjah, a Facebook friend, was riding a Bay Area commuter train and noticed that there were women standing while male passengers sat. This grated against his sensibilities and as a man of action, he set about campaigning to get every last standing woman on that train a seat…which he did. Excited about the fruit of his efforts, he posted a picture of the results on everyone’s favorite social network.

All aboard! Next stop, gender subjugation!

The electronic ticker-tape parade began in earnest. Accolades from his female friends poured in, and one woman even invited him to come to Boston to “do work.” Well, I couldn’t take it. So I didn’t.

I posted a forceful reply, and although I used highly informal language since I was talking to a group of peers, my point was substantive. The next thing I knew, I was engulfed in a 24-hour, emotionally charged conversation with Lawrence, one other man (who sided with me), and several women (who definitely did not). Although things got pretty heated, I’m used to such scraps, so I walked away no worse for wear…until I saw that my comments had been utterly misconstrued and decontextualized on the Huffington Post.

It turns out that one of the many chivalry-loving women who had seen Lawrence’s post was Ms. Nancy Redd. As a writer and host for HuffPost, I suppose that this little skirmish in the Battle of the Sexes was too good for her to pass up. I mean, you’ve got Sir Lawrence, the White Knight in Shining Armor, multiple damsels in commuter distress, and even a readymade villain, yours truly. This is the stuff of which romantic reactionary dreams are made!

Nancy (and I call her by her first name because, believe it or not, I know this woman personally) proceeded to take isolated statements that I made and present them as fully independent thoughts, without including my milder supporting comments or the often insulting words of those who I’ll dub The Defenders of Feminine Virtue. For example, one woman implied that my comrade-in-arms and I were “diva dudes” who thought that we were too good for women, and another suggested that our beliefs were the result of (drumroll, please) our mothers’ failures. None of these women’s comments made it into Nancy’s piece…yet all of my Black English did. But who can blame her? Nothing says inarticulate and therefore worthless like Black English, right?

What bothered me most about Nancy’s post however, was not her tactless attempt to paint me as a buffoon. Instead, my real anger stemmed from the fact that she reduced my sentiments to “negativity and hate,” when at their core they were actually about equity. Notice that I wrote equity, as in fairness. Women and men are not the same (a truth that is often wonderful), but our differences do not necessitate a return to the bad old days of sexist claptrap like men walking on the outside of the sidewalk, arbitrarily giving up their seats, or I don’t know…keeping women shut in at home.

No. Caption. Needed.

Be not deceived. The idea that chivalry’s origins lie in the chauvinistic past are incontrovertible. I’ve discussed this idea before, so I won’t beat a dead horse, but suffice it to say that men treating women as if they are childish dependents, mental dwarves, or hapless semi-invalids is a very bad thing…for us all. The gender-based niceties that many enjoy so much are the beguiling flowers of a sinister tree with pernicious roots. Until these vestiges of societally supported sexism are purged, women will remain just shy of being men’s recognized equals. As Gloria Steinem said, “A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space.”

Ladies, I invite you to hop off of that pedestal prison and stand up for what’s right. You’ll find plenty of good men ready to stand proudly right alongside you.

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Death to Chivalry: Notes from a Bearded Feminist

Death Knight

Maybe chivalry is actually UNdead?

Less than four decades after Roe vs. Wade, the thrust of the entire feminist movement is facing death by the most unlikely hands—liberated women.  I think a short history lesson is in order here, because I’m afraid that some of us may not remember how things went down.

Once upon a time, there were men and women, and the line between the two couldn’t be more distinct.  When a man liked a woman he pursued, wooed, and courted her.  Once she was his, the man’s romantic overtures could just as easily disappear as not, while the woman’s work as his de facto maidservant was just beginning. Her only comfort might be the fact that her husband was obligated to protect and sustain her and her children both physically and financially for life…at least in theory.  For generations these traditions were supported by Western society as a whole until, after a protracted struggle that began in the late 19th century and arguably reached its climax in 1973, women decided that enough was enough.

Sadly, less than four decades later, the very progeny of the women who stood up to men in defense of their rights are threatening to throw away the boon of that hard-fought war.  I’m talking about the fact that though most educated women will tell you that they’re strong, independent, and loving it, many continue to have the strangest affection for one of the most insidious tools of oppression ever created by man (and I do mean man)—chivalry.  You may call it being “old-fashioned”, or “traditional”, but it boils down to good old sexism, simple and plain.

At its core, chivalry is about the protection of property, and ladies that property is you.  Doors should be opened because you’re too weak to do it yourself.  Jackets should be draped over girly shoulders because you can’t brave the elements as well as we hardy menfolk can.  And men should always pay for dates because we need to proove that we have what it takes to support you once sign your life away to become our mother-whore.  (After all, when you pick up a stray at the pound, they make sure that you can feed and shelter the flea-bitten cur, don’t they?)  When viewed in the light of truth, how can any sane woman support chivalry’s existence?

The problem is that so few people have the stomach for truth.  (See my earlier note, “The Policy of Truth,” for more on that topic.) It’s much easier to think of chivalry as a set of quaint customs that demonstrate devotion and honor than as enablers of sexual discrimination and objectification. After all, it feels damn good to have someone treat you like royalty. If you can grab a free meal twice a week with absolutely minimal effort, then why not do it? If you can take a trip to some exotic destination on someone else’s dime, why not? I’ll tell you why not: there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Chivalry breeds resentment like you wouldn’t believe in the un-fair sex. The man that consistently drops his credit card for you will be looking for you to drop something of yours in return, and if it doesn’t happen, you’ll be labeled a gold digger. Actually, even if you do make like Beyoncé and let him get you bodied, he’ll probably still label you a gold digger. Now, maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t give a damn. It’s only fair that in exchange for my valuable time, I get something in return.” For any whores reading this, please persist in that thinking. It’s a completely appropriate mindframe for you. Unfortunately for the rest of you ladies, that philosophy only serves to reinforce the mistrust that many men hold for women but tend to keep to themselves…or use to inspire platinum-selling albums.

It’s time for strong and enlightened 21st century women to take their rightful place as the torchbearers for sexual equality. Chivalry was a necessity in the past because it served to bring a modicum of humanity to female-male relationships. Now that most Western women are in control of their own lives, it’s time to move forward. With that said, please don’t misunderstand me: men (particularly white ones) still have a tight grip on the reigns of power. If we don’t abandon the last vestiges of the old broken, oppressive sexual system though, this will never change.

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