So my Reverse Sexism post has gotten quite a few comments, and I thought I'd address some of their points.
1. Discrimination based on sex is not sexism
Sorry dudes, it's not. "Sexism" is a manifestation of a large, societal system that privileges men over women. Frequently it manifests itself in the form of discrimination against women. But just because it does that, it does not mean that discrimination against men is "sexist." In fact, much of the "discrimination against men" that I see bandied about is really just legal mechanisms for redressing men being privileged over women. Evening the scales, as it were. Let's look at some examples, shall we?
Spousal/child support. This is a big one, frequently cited, but it's not sexism. Yes, men more frequently pay spousal and child support, and compared to women, they often pay more. An unsubtle analysis might make it seem like men are getting the short end of the stick. No, dudes, we're not. Women who work are paid less than men who work. So frequently, because our marriage laws generally demand a division of property, that means that a man who makes more than a woman has to give up some of his income to continue to support that woman. And that's for women who work. Women also have more barriers to entering and re-entering the workforce after having been a parent/caregiver. Women who care for children of a marriage give up the opportunity to work and make money, and engage in what we might call uncompensated child care. That's a disadvantage to women, post-divorce. Looking at child support, we see a similar pattern. Women are overwhelmingly expected/forced to take care of children in an uncompensated manner, so post-divorce, society looks to the income-earning spouse, generally the man, and expects him to pay up and help support the child. Moreover, society generally expects women to continue taking care of children after a divorce, without much of a regard to whether or not the woman wants to, or the woman's ability to re-enter the workforce and earn a wage to support those children. So as far as these forms of support, they're not things that "disadvantage" men, but legal mechanisms to help redress an imbalance that overwhelmingly favors men.
Let's look at a less legal example (and a much simpler one): "ladies' nights."
Some dudes look at this and say, "This is discrimination against men, because women get free drinks, and men don't." You're wrong. This isn't discrimination, but rather, a pretty blatant attempt to get dudes to go to bars by advertising to dudes that something they want is going to be at the bar: women. What these bars are doing is pretty much offering you a service/promise of women being there. You're getting something in return for not getting free drinks. And it's all a product of the pretty effed up kyriarchy.
Another example from my comments: the "concrete basement" or the fact that men are overwhelmingly involved in more industrial accidents than women. First off: see above re: the pay gap. More men are in industrial accidents because women were not allowed to be employed in industrial jobs. Men got the huge advantage of being in jobs where there was good wages (and as the 20th century wore on, benefits) while women were routinely denied being able to work at all and those good jobs too. Yes, there were more accidents, but women never even had the opportunity to take those jobs with its attendants risks and rewards. And certainly a discussion of sex-based fatalities could not be complete without what was the historically #1 killer of women for all time: child-birth. Sorry victims of industrial accidents, but there's a crapload more deaths of women at childbirth both today around the world and everywhere historically than there are for industrial accidents. This is a pretty common tactic of anti-feminists: to take a negative byproduct (industrial accidents) of what is a huge advantage for men (having jobs for wages), and make it seem as if it is "sexist against men" because of that byproduct.
One of my commenters, "John," laid out some more examples, and I'll address them. He mentioned the draft (selective service). While again, this is sex-based discrimination, but historically, selective service was viewed as a responsibility for citizens. And who weren't citizens? If you guessed women, you're right! The draft is another example of a negative byproduct that hurts men, but a byproduct of something overwhelmingly privileged in favor of men. When the U.S. was founded, women couldn't vote, mostly couldn't own property, couldn't be elected to office, couldn't engage in most occupations, etc., etc. Citizenship, and all its attendants rights (voting, participating in elected office, holding property) and responsibilities, like the draft, was exclusively male.
John made a pretty crazy argument about circumcision that I won't adress, suffice to say that according to my understanding of how this all works mechanically, female circumcision as practiced is far worse than male circumcision. John also brought up adoption, but I think I've addressed how legal rights in favor of women have developed to redress society's privileging of men on this stuff already. He brings up a pretty crazy argument about men who rape women (in statutory rape cases) don't have a choice in whether or not to abort, give up for adoption, or keep the child. I don't think I need to cover that one much more than simply to say that after committing the crime of rape, you don't get to press any parental rights upon the victim.
2. The Kyriarchy sucks for men too
Yo dudes, believe me, I get it: the kyriarchy, patriarchy, heternormative world sucks for men too. That doesn't make it "reverse sexist" however. It makes it shitty. And we should do stuff about it, but whatever it is, "reverse sexist" is not the appropriate term to characterize it.
One comments, in responding to comments about how women are often forced to prove themselves in workplaces, often competing against other women in a cutthroat manner, made the point that men also have to compete in a cutthroat manner against other men in the workplace. I'll wholeheartedly agree, but whatever you want to call that phenomena, "reverse sexist" isn't it.
If you're a man who recognizes that society sucks for men in the way it places expectations on men to act in certain ways and be certain ways, let me point in the right direction of the enemy: it's society and how we structure our culture, not women. Sure, women can buy into how our society is structured just as much as men can, but those women, just like men, but that doesn't make all women any more than it makes all men the enemies or opponents of feminists.
I hope that covers some of the common arguments the Men Dare Do! commentariat gave me, and I look forward to whatever else you guys are going to throw at me!
So it might not shock anyone to know that I used to play a bunch of video games. Mostly lighter stuff: text based political simulations like NationStates and CyberNations, but every now and then (usually while waiting for jobs to start), I'd play a little WoW or something like that.
So a bit of background about these games, political or otherwise, is that they're role-playing games. You have to create a character and go play as it. Frequently, in the political games, people would create a person who just represented whatever their own political views are, which frankly, seems a bit boring to me. But some people would create entirely different personas, and others still might have multiple personas. And although these games are usually overwhelming populated by men, a lot of these guys woud choose to RP a female character and (perhaps unknowingly) engage in some genderplay.
A common "complaint" among other men playing these political games is that they would point to a woman who had some sort of political position, or power, or influence and say, "She only got that because she's using her femininity to take advantage of all the kids/young men in the game," or something to that effect. Whether or not most women were using some magic female tricks to lure men into giving them power, I couldn't say (protip: I could say: they weren't).
But what was most interesting was talking to people who created new character who were women, either for the purposes of spying or role-play or whatever, because they got harassed, stalked, and the cyber-equivalent of being cat-called. I always knew it happened. I wasn't one of those deniers who felt women only held power in these games because of their femininity, but it was so fascinating to watch some guys who did think that, having pointed out to all the apparent hay made of women's sexuality in these games, not realizing that so much of it was unwillingly foisted on these women. I recall a specific time one guy role-played a woman in order to spy on some other group in one of these political games, and he came back after a few weeks telling me that because he was performing as a girl, he got hit on constantly, cat-called, harassed, and that generally people just assumed that any benefit or position he'd achieved he had gotten solely by (mis)using his female sexuality. It was pretty eye-opening.
On another front, and perhaps more familiar to my readers than some niche political games is World of Warcraft. It's not hard to find lots of interesting commentary on being female in WoW. But what's interesting is how so many male players who have a female character (or "toon" as they're often called) on WoW will report being shocked at the sexism and harassment that goes on. When you go into any of the main towns in WoW, you'll find hundreds, perhaps thousands of characters. It's pretty hard to be a female toon in town and not have male characters blow kisses at you, try to hug you, flirt, or makes jokes. And I'd be remiss not to mention the gendered expectations in how well you fight, heal, or do whatever it is your character is supposed to do.
A friend of mine who had played WoW for a while remarked to me that he liked playing as female characters, but in order to avoid the harassment that would come with it, would pick a character of a race (for non-WoW people: "race" means "species") that was least human-like, and thus least attractive to our norms. That way he wouldn't get harassed or catcalled, because he wasn't playing as a "pretty" character. Similarly, since he wasn't playing as very "girly" character, the assumptions that female characters are played by women and are therefore less competent were reduced; it was assumed that women would choose the girlier of the female characters.
I bring all these things up, because I wonder, as I usually do, can these phenomena, of men experiencing a bit of femaleness by RPing a female character in the gaming world, someone be made into an educational tool? I'm always trying to wonder how we can bring an understanding or an acknowledgment of feminist issues to men who aren't on board with the movement. Has anyone else had similar experiences in the gaming world?
It's been quite a while since I've posted on this blog, and hopefully I'll be getting back into it. As some of you may know, I've been taking an LSAT prep course post-midwest trip, and that sucked up a lot of my time. Hopefully, I'll be blogging more soon!
I recently came back from a trip, and saw an interesting interaction that I think is ripe for some feminist and male feminist analysis.
They're pretty common interactions, I think, so let me just describe what I observed specifically first. To set the scene: we're in a bar. I'm in a group of similar twenty-somethings, men and women. One of the women, who is in a relationship (more or less) with a man, announces that she wants a free drink. She meanders over to the bar, focuses her attention on a man probably in his mid-40's or older, begins talking to him, flirting. He buys her a drink. She continues talking for maybe five to the minutes and then leaves, drink in hand.
Now, I can't speak to the man's intentions or his thinking, but I can speak to the girl's, since she said them. She had no intention of really engaging in much of an interaction with this man: she wanted a drink, she flirted, got her drink, made some perfunctory conversation and left.
I think this is interesting, because it's illustrative of something that I observe in a lot of MRA arguments. The MRAs and their types, feel that their purchasing of a drink for a girl constitutes some sort of signaling or intent of the woman to form a relationship, sexual or otherwise. That is, they expect some sort of genuine interaction, and not simply being "used" for their free drink.
Before I delve into that, I should say that there's obviously there's some fucked up societal expectations there that I'll spell out before I continue: buying women things does not constitute permission for romantic/sexual/any interactions. Also the age difference certainly has a skeezy feel to it. That aside, the man's in a kind of crappy position. Regardless of whether or not his intentions in buying the drink followed that patriarchal narrative, he's just been used. He wasn't there to give out free drinks. I think it's certainly understandable that such a guy is pissed when this happens. I also don't think it's feminist to support that: getting free drinks from guys with whom you don't intend to have any sort of interactions doesn't push forward the cause.
So, why do I find this all so interesting? Well, as I've written about before, I think feminism needs to reach your "mainstream" men better, men who are benefiting from the heteronormative patriarchy. The MRA types who are pissed that a girl got a free drink, because he was expecting to get laid off of it isn't the kind of anger I'm sympathetic too, but I wonder if we can somehow re-channel that thinking from a "I'm pissed I paid money and didn't get laid," to some sort of analysis of that interaction. This leads into the whole "beta male" theory that some MRAs have, which I'll paraphrase a bit tongue-in-cheek: men who don't conform to societal expectations of "real men" don't get laid. They have to resort to buying drinks and other PUA type tactics. There has to be some way of steering the kind of anger and emotions that come from these (typical, I think) interactions that men can have away from MRA arguments towards more feminist.
I don't know that I have in-hand a good set of talking points. Perhaps one is to have men examine how that's a shitty situation and how both men's and women's understanding of societal roles construct that narrative, much like one of my other favorite examples to use: the woman crossing to the other side of the street as she approaches a man walking towards her on her side. Reaching MRAs certainly doesn't seem to be easy, though people like ManBoobz really analyze the phenomena well. I'm convinced there's some number of them that we can reach.
So, if any of y'all still actually read this thing, what do you think?
I'll address their arguments in two parts: firstly the substantive parts, and then the strawman dictionary argument.
But this is really beside the point. And that is, OR-sexism collapses the entire system of kyriarchy down to a single oversimplified notion: That all men always have the social leverage to enforce or exploit their prejudices, and that no women ever do. But this is simply not the case. In the kyriarchy, different groups experience power advantages in different ways, in different contexts, and at different times. There is no one Group With All The Power, and no Ultimately Victimized Group. It doesn’t work that way, and frankly, the Oppression Olympics hurt everyone and help no one.
Firstly, they clearly mistake my argument. Simply put, what we call "sexism" is a term that is used to describe the manifestations of a large system that privileges men (and certain types of men). While I certainly agree that men can be discriminated against on the basis of their gender, that's not sexism the same way the above-mentioned sexism is sexism.
And this is an important point: the discrimination against women and discrimination against men are not the same types of discrimination. Their overall cause, our cultural system, is the same, but their manifestations are starkly different, bringing the issues to light is very different, and solving the issues is different. I think it's very important within feminist circles to be very clear in the terms we use, because using the same language to describe problems that have very different approaches to solving them is confusing.
I've talked a lot about how I believe a "problem" of feminism is that it is extremely ineffective at reaching "mainstream men." As in, your white, middle class, cisgendered men. Feminism casts issues from a feminine perspective, generally, because by using shared and common experiences, you can best reach your target audience. As a male feminist, attempting to reach a male audience, I (and people in our movement) need to use our shared and common experiences, which are necessarily different in many respects than women's experiences, in order to reach men. This necessitates a fundamentally different approach.
As I said within the context of talking to men about sexual assault: "talking to an oppressor is different than talking to the oppressed." That's not to say that men are not victims of the system we live in, and that many men do feel (rightly so) as if the system disadvantages them. Our system privileges certain men who perform masculinity a certain way. All "acceptable" masculinities have limitations, and men are no less victims to this than women are. However, they are not victims of the same things in the same way.
One of the reasons I sometimes cross-post, and I enjoy reading, Manboobz, is that David Futrelle's shining of a light on the MRAs also shines a light on a lot of underlying feelings and anger that men have at the system in which we live. While I tend to think that most of their ways to address or process their anger is misguided, it's there, and it's something we, as a feminists, have to find ways to address.
A second part of their argument, which I can't simply let slip by, is their reliance on the dictionary. Doctormindbeam writes, adding a dictionary definition at the end:
To begin, a linguistic pet peeve: words mean shit. You can’t simply redefine them to suit your needs. They have meanings, and they’re there for a reason. Namely, so that we can all fucking understand each other. In particular, “sexism:”
This is a pet peeve of mine. Dictionaries are great things. If you don't know what a word means, they can give you some pretty solid general definitions of words. But they're generally pretty poor at giving exact, specific, and academic meanings to words. Quite topical that this has happened this week, as this was brought up in the legal context by Adam Liptak, the Supreme Court Correspondent for the New York Times. He wrote in the context of Supreme Court Justices using dictionary definitions as evidence of the meaning of Constitutional phrases. Jesse Sheidlower, Editor at Large of the Oxford English Dictionary is quoted in the piece as saying: "I think that it’s probably wrong, in almost all situations, to use a dictionary in the courtroom[.] Dictionary definitions are written with a lot of things in mind, but rigorously circumscribing the exact meanings and connotations of terms is not usually one of them.”
This equally applies in an academic setting or in other settings where we ascribe very specific meanings that represent complex ideas and theories to single words. If we moved out of the realm of the feminism, for instance, and sought out a definition of "communism," I'd suspect we'd find as many definitions as we have dictionaries, and more than a few people who have been willing to fight and die over those definitions. Recourse to a dictionary is a strawman argument that obscures actual differences in ideas and theories.
I'd also note, for the record, that the definition used is from wikipedia, and it has a warning at the top: "The examples and perspective in this section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. Please improve this article and discuss the issue on the talk page. (January 2011)"
A few days ago, a man I know leveled an allegation at a woman of "reverse sexism." It was within the context of him alleged that referring to men as "guys" or "boys" was derogatory, infantilizing, and thus, "reverse sexism."
I feel like talking about sexism, and "reverse sexism" deserves a post of its own. Let me begin by saying that generally speaking, there is no such thing as "reverse sexism." There just isn't. When one uses the word "sexism," you're not just referring to say, a derogatory term for a woman (e.g. "slut"), but rather, sexism exists at a macro level. It describes a system that privileges men (and specific kinds of men) over and at the expense of women (all women generally, while privileging some women over others). A remark or action that we call "sexist" is sexist because it exists within that larger context. If you call me, a man, some slur, let's say "bastard," that's not "reverse sexism" or anything of the sort, because it's not a manifestation of a larger system that is working against me based on my sex.
And of course, as has often been noted, the worst slurs against men are ones that attack their masculinity, and thus their privilege within that system. Calling a man a woman (not a man), or gay (not a man within the traditional system) are the worst things you can usually call a man and aren't "reverse sexism."
Talking about examples probably best illustrates this: I've seen some men point out that since "the feminists" say that terms such as "gals," "ladies," "chick," because they are frequently infantilizing, dismissive and such, then similar terms "boys," and "guys," must also be similarly infantilizing and dismissive towards men. This is wrong. The terms described above for women are dismissive and infantilizing depending on their context and within the heteronormative patriarchy, which is where we after all live. The terms for men are not derogatory, and if we examine them specifically, we'll find out that they're actually privileged terms. Think of colloquialisms for each term. To be described as "one of the guys," is a good thing. It means fitting in. Men are almost automatically "one of the guys;" women are not. Same with the term "boy." (Discarding the racial use of the term for now.) I think of the phrase "boys will be boys" as a means to excuse behavior in (grown) men that would be unacceptable in women.
In fact, I can't really think of many terms for men that are derogatory and based on their sex. "Dick" comes to mind. All the others I can think of either are A) terms that reduce their masculinity by associating them with a woman (e.g. pussy), B) terms that relate them to women (e.g. motherfucker), or C) terms that are sex-neutral (e.g. asshole).
Now, I don't doubt some commenters might take issue with my description that the larger system isn't biased against men. A fairly typical MRA argument points to alimony, divorce law, custody, and things of that nature. Although addressing those points could very well be posts of their own, I would merely point out that those laws are structured in ways that "favor" women in order to redress the systemic imbalance that exists in the system. So rather than pushing a scale against men, it attempts to equalize. (Let me editorialize a bit about the scale metaphor, and just state that I strongly dislike metaphors describing women and men in some sort of "war" or having "sides.")
So next time you hear someone make an accusation of "reverse sexism," just remember, it simply doesn't exist.
“What’s Missing from the Discussion on Male Sexuality” from the Good Men Project and the Man Project
Posted up at the Good Men Project is a discussion of The Man Project, a project run by Rachel Rabbit White discussing different aspects of male sexuality. A lot of different kinds of men with different kinds of sexuality contribute to the project. It's a really cool and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the topic.
At least one of the quotes leapt out at me:
What about male stereotypes like guys being “less in touch with their emotions”?
Eon: In a breakup, for example, I think women have a lot more coping mechanisms that society supports. Men are expected to not care and move on. I don’t know what’s going on at the Moose Lodge and I’m sure that some of those brothers are helping each other out. But in general, it’s hard to help another man emotionally. It’s a pride thing and a societal pressure not to.
If we men want to talk about building a more positive masculinity(ies), this is a place I think we have to start: being comfortable Talking About Stuff. Stuff happens in life, and we men, however much we might not want to, feel emotions, and well, Stuff. And we're not socialized to Talk About It. I think far more importantly, men have to become comfortable talking about "emotions" with other men. I think that a lot of guys end up talking about these things with women rather than men. And while I don't intend to reduce the relationships men have with women, I think a lot of the time men talk to women because women are viewed as emotionally experienced, in that women are expected to talk about their emotions with other women.
Now obviously we're socialized to talk about some emotions. Anger. Jealousy. Lust. Happiness. It's not that we dont possess the other emotions, we just don't talk about them. At the risk of sounding a bit too touchy-feely (and un-masculine!) I think any thinking and speaking human being would say, acknowledging, thinking about, and articulating your emotions is part of your development as a person. If you're not willing to do that, it's a lot harder to grow as a person.
So, another sex scandal, another politician, and time for another post. Andrew Sullivan (who I disagree with on many (most?) political positions, but I like his commentary) linked to this post on Andrew Weiner, discussing his sexuality and his Jewishness. Sullivan's byline was "Tweeters of a Certain Age." While the post he linked to was thought-provoking (some of the Jewish stuff was a bit "eh"), I think the byline was particularly interesting.
The main thrust of it was that this was a mistake that only a man of Weiner's age would make: early to mid-40's. Young enough to try to want to be hip with new technology, social media, etc., etc., but old enough not quite to realize the full impact of what he's doing. That is, the Internet is still sort of this dream world, where your actions are divorced from real self. Now perhaps that isn't the case with Weiner, and he totally understands technology, but I wonder if his actions aren't a manifestation of that older view of the Internet, as something totally different than real life. That's not the case with the younger generation, born in, say, the mid-80's and later, who understand that the Internet is very much inextricably linked to real life. And the Internet has had an effect on our sexuality.
A man of Weiner's age, however he learned about sexuality, through experience, magazines, whatever it was he learned about it from, wasn't the Internet. From wherever he learned it is just not how a lot of young people are learning about sexuality. We're not making the direct messaging versus tweeting at someone mistake, and we understand that actions online aren't separate from actions "IRL." Sex and porn isn't something in tawdry magazines like Playboy or Hustler. It's ubiquitous, it's easily accessible, and it's not restricted to what a few "mainstream" porn outlets want us to have. People can explore fetishes, find all sorts of different people online, and they can even produce their own porn pretty easily and upload it. The Internet isn't some parallel world with no consequences, but one that we affect and that one that effects us in turn.
So what's interesting about Weinergate is that there's been a lot of discussion about his potential ignorance of Twitter, the Internet, how different generations deal with it, etc., etc., but not a whole lot about how the Internet affects us. I've written a bit about how pornography specifically affects men's understanding of sexuality, but not the Internet generally. I don't know that it's easy to describe or study it, but what does it mean that a lot of kids (and I say "kids" because we start doing it before our teens and continue through it) start their interactions with other boys and girls online. For my generation, it was AIM, Hotmail, and ICQ, and for kids growing up today, it's Twitter, Gmail, and Facebook Chat. Text as a medium is different than being face-to-face. Not bad, not better, but certainly different. It's a lot easier to use, which perhaps makes some face-to-face interactions that used to be more awkward as a kid a lot more accessible. Accessibility is, ultimately, what killed Weiner in. In a society as narcissistic as ours (and who more narcissistic than a politician?), it's so very easy to talk with your admirers, send them pictures of your junk, etc., etc., but just as easily, for those non-politicians among us, it's easy to find gratification (sexual and otherwise) within the narrow confines of whatever corner of the Internet we seek.
I only discovered Captain Awkward a couple months ago, but I've been loving every post! Captain Awkward is an advice column/blog, covering dating and relationships, work situation, and just life in general as a young something awkward person (and who isn't?). From her about page:
I write screenplays. I read advice columns.
Advice columns are full of conflict.
Good screenplays are full of conflict.
People who write to advice columnists are usually looking for help in having a difficult conversation. Most advice-column advice comes down to “Have you tried telling that person what you just told me?”
Movie characters are all direct and brave and articulate the way that we almost never get to be in real life. They get to have those difficult conversations and make them sound awesome. That’s not because screenwriters are life experts. We are not. You should probably not be taking life advice from a woman whose plan for paying back $100K in grad school debt is “write a screenplay!”
I can’t tell you what to do. But I can probably tell you what to say.
Captain Awkward started out with some solid, all-purpose advice:
My rules of dating are the same for all people. Let’s review:
- The other person is just a human
- Ask the person out sooner rather than later, before you get too caught up in a fantasy or invested in the outcome.
- Nobody owes you time or affection, so don’t approach dating with a sense of entitlement.
- Be cool with rejection.
- You can’t control whether someone will like you.
- Listen to the other person – pay attention to the actual interaction that is taking place and not the one in your head.
- Don’t date anyone who isn’t as cool as your friends.
- Acknowledge the awkward. Don’t try to be smooth if you’re not smooth. It’s okay to say “I feel shy about asking you out, but I like you."
Captain Awkward then goes on to some specific advice. I'd ask you to go read the whole response there, because I'm going to riff on a couple themes she has going on there.
Firstly, "Some people are feminists who don’t necessarily identify as feminists." I think this is hugely important for all people (not just straight, cis dudes like me), especially of our (20's something and younger) generation. I've written some before about strategies and tactics for reaching men, and I think that this is one of the most important principles behind these strategies: there's a lot of low-hanging fruit out there. A lot of people believe all the things that one normally associates with feminism, but just are afraid to self-identify with. I think that part of whatever place men have is the larger feminist movement is to de-stigmatize identifying yourself as a feminist as a man.
Secondly, on to the dating stuff. I think all of Captain Awkward's advice is spot-on, and good all-around dating advice to anyone. Not to get defensive, but I sure hope I'm not mansplaining, as Captain Awkward suggests I might be, but I recognize that that's a big problem for men in the feminist movement, particularly new men in the feminist movement. We're excited that we "know" things we didn't once know, and we want to tell people about it. We're excited when we meet other feminists and want to engage them in conversation, even if they might know worlds more than we do. I think in particular, we men new to the movement, when it was often hard for us to get into the movement, automatically assume that all women, or at least a lot of them must be just as feminist as we are, and that's simply not the case. So in a situation like dating, or meeting new people, we assume people hold views similar to ours, when that's simply not the case. Then we end up being all "mentory" as Captain Awkward says. That's sort of the flip-side of meeting someone feminist and being overbearing about it.
Thirdly, something else that Captain Awkward mentions is a bit like the Bechdel Test. The Bechdel Test is a test from a comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, where a character explains she'll only watch a movie that satisfies three criteria 1: it has to have two women in it, 2. who talk to each other and 3. about something other than a man. Captain Awkward has something that strikes me as a variant of that test: don't date someone who in their online dating profile only has music, TV shows, movies, and books written by men.
Sadly, still being out here in Kansas for work, I don't think I can take Captain Awkward's suggestion and take a date to see Meek's Cutoff (not that I've been dating out here), but I'll have to give it a shot when I get back to DC!
I've written about what I perceive to be some of the problems of sexual assault and the law before, but I haven't talked a whole lot about the media. Now we've got a trio of stories to discuss: the acquittal of two NYPD cops charged with sexual assault, the alleged sexual assault by Dominique Strass-Kahn, the Director of the IMF, and the news that my former Guhvahna, Arnold Schwarzenegger had an affair with a member of his household staff.
First, the acquittal. As I'm sure some readers of my this blog, two police officers allegedly, while bringing a drunk woman back to her apartment, sexually assaulted her while she was incapacitated. They were acquitted last Thursday. I don't think I need to rehash the story, except to note a few things: there was videotaped surveillance of the officers returning to her apartment after leaving and there wasn't any DNA evidence. I think those two facts speak to an interesting intersection of the difficulties of prosecuting a sexual assault case where the victim was drunk (in this to incapacitation) and what is called in legal circles the "CSI effect." In a sentence, the CSI effect is the tendency of criminal juries to demand high-tech forensic evidence and analyses in prosecution criminal cases. While the actual effects of the "CSI effect" are hotly debated within the legal and academic community, I wonder if this isn't anecdotal evidence of it. Here we have a sexual assault victim who is unable to remember much of the encounter, which is obviously not uncommon in sexual assault cases where the victim has been drinking are/or using other substances. We also have a perpetrator (according to the secretly taped phone call) using a condom, which if used effectively, would prevent the collection of semen samples using a SAFE kit (popularly called "rape kits"). So we have juries that are disinclined to believe circumstantial evidence such as the surveillance videos (even though as a legal matter, circumstantial evidence is equal to eyewitness evidence), no CSI type evidence, and a victim who in all likelihood does not remember everything.
Now scoot on over to the alleged assault by Dominique Strauss-Kahn of a maid in his hotel room in New York City. Legally, I don't think this is as interesting a case, as it more closely conforms to traditional expectations of sexual assault: a man assaulting a woman, with DNA evidence. No alcohol involved, which would lead to victim-blaming or a more clear "defense," such as in the NYC cop case. Something that I should be added are the racial issues involved, which don't seem to have been brought up in US media as much: the victim is reportedly Guinean and obviously Mr. Strauss-Kahn is white.
I'd like to contrast this to the Schwarzenegger news we've heard and note again the ethnicities involved. The woman with whom Mr. Schwarzenegger had an affair with was also of color and also a woman under his employ. I bring this up because both these two men engaged in relationships with people with whom they had an unequal power relationship, and though Arnold's relationship has been reported as consensual, I think, as a general matter, that things become much more murky when it involves relationships between employers and employees. But the coverage of Schwarzenegger's story is mostly centering on the affair, the divorce, the effect it would have had on politics, etc., etc., and not the sexual dynamics inherent in an unequal relationship like that.
I think crimes involving sex remain some of the most strangely covered events in our media. If there's a mugging, you don't blame the victims for have the audacity to be mugged. If there's a murder, you don't blame the victim for what they were wearing, doing, or where they were at night. If there's a murder and it involves people of different races/ethnicities, you bet it will be discussed heavily in the popular media, but if there's a sexual assault, the likelihood is much less, such as in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Is it because of our society's inability to accept sexuality and yet be fascinated by sex in the popular consciousness? Is it our unwillingness to accept a lot of the racialized aspects of crime and sex crimes in general? I don't know, but it's all food for thought.
As some of my RL friends might know, I've been out in the Plains for work since mid-April. While out here, I've been working pretty long hours and haven't really had a whole lot of time to read the news, let alone post on this blog. Now with a bit more time, I'm hoping I can start blogging again!