Posts tagged feminism
Posts tagged feminism
This weekend, I re-listened to the David Foster Wallace Kenyon commencement address called This Is Water. He starts it by telling a parable. An old fish swims by two younger fish and says “Good morning! How’s the water?” As he swims away, the two younger fish look at each other and one says, “What the hell is water?” This is a parable about awareness, and I think it applies perfectly to the outpouring of anger and pain we saw as a result of the shooting under the hashtag #YesAllWomen. A lot of men expressed confusion about why so much anger, why so much pain. Are women not equals in our society? Are they not as free as the men? Why is this lasting so long?
To them, I want to say - you are the younger fish, and you don’t see the water. Not because I’m older or wiser, but because you are a man, and I am a woman, you are immune to the white noise of women being made to feel less than from the day we’re born. I’m not going to list all of the white noise, from constant objectification by pop culture to underrepresentation in nearly every field but most notably government to living with the fear of sexual violence at any time from childhood to death. I’m going to only give you one statistic, although many are horrifying:
More than one in three women will experience rape, violence, and/or stalking at the hands of an intimate partner in their lifetimes.
That’s almost every woman you know. This is so common to us, but invisible to you because you never have to think about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy you don’t have to fear for your safety or being called a bitch for being strong or crazy for expressing yourself. It’s what I want, too. So maybe the next time you are annoyed we’re taking up your time with these dark things, try to see the water. Read the hashtag. Listen to women, whether you know them or not. This is a great moment for learning and understanding and being supportive. Take it.
And P.S. Stop posting that “hashtag activism” is stupid and does nothing! You are not donating to a women’s shelter while posting that, so why act superior? This is not an either/or scenario. Culture changes through public discourse AND action. Don’t be a cynical jerk-off. Contribute how you can and kindly shut up.
Some more sobering statistics from Think Progress.
I see a lot of Twitter bios that make me sad or angry or disappointed in people. There are gems like, “A simple Southern guy, love women, beer, rock, drinking, my truck, and my wife and family” (I’m being gracious with the spelling here, it is never that good), or the perfunctory warnings about what a dangerous and offensive pioneer you are, and how “I AM SO SHOCKING I WILL GIVE YOUR GRANDMA A HEART ATTACK I SWEAR TO GOD! THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED HERE ARE MY OWN ONLY AND NOT AFFILIATED WITH ANYONE BECAUSE I’M SO CONTROVERSIAL THEY WOULD LITERALLY EXPLODE BY BEING AFFILIATED WITH ME DICK BOOBS FAGGOT BITCH.” Those just elicit resigned head shakes from me at this point, but the ones that sincerely upset me are where girls and women refer to themselves as stupid in their own bios.
I don’t even mean ones where girls say something like, “Real life Liz Lemon, photographer, cook, Cheeto-loving idiot.” I mean ones where girls self-identify as “A stupid bitch” or “a dumb broad” without any attempt at irony, humor, or fun. Where it’s the only descriptor of them, and their avatar is a regular photo where they try to look pretty. I don’t understand this. You are taking enough care to present yourself as someone who’s attractive by choosing a particular photo where you look nice, but you aren’t taking any care to present yourself as someone intelligent? What possible advantage could there be to this? That no matter what thoughts you tweet, we as your audience are supposed to never take you seriously? Or is this a way to safeguard yourself against unforeseen criticism? “Well, I don’t agree with this tweet, but that’s right, she did say she was a stupid bitch.”
It’s ridiculous to me, as a writer, comedian, and sane human being, than anyone would want to be considered dumber than they are. I have spent my whole life being ashamed of mispronouncing words I had only read before, terrified that someone would ask me to point out a country on a map and I wouldn’t be able to do it, in a cold sweat over the time I attributed a certain anecdote to Fugazi instead of The Teen Idles on a podcast. If anything, I value being perceived as intelligent too much, where I confuse many things I think I should be able to know for actual intelligence. I work on this. What are the girls who are calling themselves stupid IN THEIR BIOS trying to tell us?
Sadly, I think it’s that they’re scared of being smart. They are not exposed to much pop culture where women are routinely shown being rewarded for being smart. Instead, there are many many shows that feature toddlers, teenagers, grown women all trying desperately to be as beautiful as possible. There is no America’s Smartest Woman, or Toddlers and Chess Trophies, or The Bachelor’s Doctor Wife. But a bunch of Snookis and housewives who rip into each other at every opportunity are so plentiful it’s like they’re all screwing each other without condoms.
So girls are understandably afraid of criticism. They think if they’re sincere about something in today’s culture of constant vicious internet mockery, they will pay a price. That someone will make them feel like crap for not being funny, or right, or a dude. A lot of them end up perpetuating the stereotype of women being stupid and catty by censoring themselves, and in turn eviscerating other women who do go out on a limb and present themselves sincerely.
So to any young girls reading this: no one will respect you if you don’t respect yourself. You can’t expect everyone to like you, no one can, but you can and should expect people to respect you. And that starts with being the best person you can be. The smartest, kindest, bravest you you’ve got. People respect that. And if in the process, your best gets people to like you, that’s great! It means they like you for you. And if they don’t, you have to be tough and still keep being you. If we all quit based on the input of trolls, there would be no art at all, good or bad. So tweet with impunity, without the “I’m a dumb broad” disclaimer in your bio. You deserve it.
I’ll leave you with something unsurprising, but still sad. This is what you get when you type “why are girls” into Google.
And this is what you get when you type “why are boys” into Google.
So we as a googling nation think our boys are mean, but at least they’re tall!! And we think our girls are stupid, insecure, AND mean.
We can do better.
P.S. Things like this wonderful Amy Poehler web series Smart Girls helps me from getting sad:
Oh hey there, I’m a ‘blogger’ with an opinion on rape. Yep, I will get in line. No, I understand that EVERYTHING ABOUT RAPE EVER HAS ALREADY BEEN SAID. Would I like to shut it right now? Nope, no I wouldn’t.
Is it important for everyone to have something to say about rape? Yes. I will laugh at, and make jokes about how every asshole with a blog nowadays has an opinion, and how when something like the Tosh rape joke fiasco or the Dane Cook chainsaw-in-the-cunt incident or anything at all happens, the internet explodes with millions of opinions, memes, charts, animated gifs, and other things that have become our lives in between briefly stuffing ourselves on Real World experiences. But I will not shut it.
And while I would like to hear fewer opinions on how to please my man, or get rid of that pesky belly fat, or which mascara is the flirtiest, I hope as many people as possible talk about rape. Considering how few years it’s been since women couldn’t vote, or have property, or even REPORT RAPE FOR FUCK’S SAKE, I would like for all of us to keep discussing this for as long as necessary for women’s equality to really take root, the same way we’re working on racism, and acceptance of gay people, and different religious affiliations.
I don’t have to tell you about the rights women don’t have in other parts of the world. But I fucking will. And I hope you bring it up too. Because that’s how we human beings work stuff out for ourselves, become aware, evolve, acquire knowledge, change opinions. Why would you want to shut down the intellectual marketplace? A place of true equality, the equality of ideas? Because you’re sick of reading things that you agree with? Look up other publications. IT’S THE INTERNET, THE OPINIONS ARE LITERALLY NEVER-ENDING LIKE THE SALAD AND BREADSTICKS AT OLIVE GARDEN. Are you sick of reading things you disagree with? Good. Maybe you learned something today. Something about what the people around you believe, and how they think.
I would like for even the idiots to keep talking. It’s so easy for me, living in liberal Los Angeles, to forget how many idiots there are. And that makes me complacent. I forget how ignorant a lot of people are about sexual assault statistics, or how young boys think violence is cool, and they don’t necessarily take sexual assault seriously, or about little girls who think Chris Brown hit Rihanna because he loved her so much. So thank you, idiots! We need your opinions, too. We need all the opinions we can muster, all fighting it out in our consciousness, so we can together process something as unthinkable as rape. So we can get an accurate idea of who’s not informed, misinformed, and where our opinions about equality come from. We need to hear everyone so we can laugh at jokes about rape, talk about why we laugh, and why we don’t, and how we can make our women feel valued, and keep our comedy free at the same time, as a society full of people who is still evolving and stumbling drunkenly towards the light.
So hey guys, meet me at Olive Garden in an hour for the never-ending salad, breadsticks, and rape talk special? I will be the one with the chainsaw in my cunt.
One of the grossest feelings ever is when you realize you’re committing something you are fundamentally against. I’m of course talking about necrophilia.
But seriously, I’m talking about rewarding physical beauty. I don’t think it’s necessary to mention, but I’ll do it anyway - of course we all love beautiful things and people. We’re programmed by nature and nurture to do so. The symmetry of a face, the fullness of a bottom lip, the shape and color of an eye, the length of eyelashes, the taut drum of a tan stomach, the perkiness of a nipple - all these things are giving me a boner right now, and that’s fine, they’re supposed to. But our particular society assigns so much importance to physical beauty that it seeps into our consciousness and our drinking water and our interactions with each other.
You hear people talk to little girls about what they’re wearing, and to little boys about what they did that day. You hear female comics introduced like this, “She’s smart, funny, AND beautiful, please welcome to the stage Boobers McPussy!” (I wish Boobers was a real comic, but alas, she is not.) But the rest is true. Moreover, sometimes I’m the person who gave that intro. Yep. Just like I was giving out ribbons at a dog show. “Julia, in addition to being an amazing writer, and having a wonderfully dry piercing wit, and being an amazing road trip partner, has toned haunches, an excellent shiny coat, and her whiskers are downright bushy! Let’s give Julia a hand, everybody, what an excellent specimen!”
Gross. And for me, it comes from a nice place, too. It comes from the place where you want to sing the praises of your friends to anyone and everyone, and just let people know how wonderful and accomplished your friends are. But that’s the thing, being pretty is not an accomplishment. Having a unique sense of style can be praised, but being born with the right features is nothing anyone earned. It’s pure luck. What are we saying about each other when we praise those traits? That those of our friends that are chubbier, or have bald heads, or big noses, or tiny T-Rex arms, or lower halves that are horse, are somehow worse than our other friends? Surely we don’t mean that.
And as for comics, how is a funny woman with nice sweater puppies worth any more than a funny woman who’s got little tiny sweater mice? IS THAT WHAT WE ALL BELIEVE? Call me an optimist, but I really don’t think so. We laugh at what’s funny. As much as TV executives try to make us believe that a fat funny man is perfectly paired with a bland pretty woman, we know better. Being funny has zero to do with looks. Iliza Schlesinger is not funnier than Melissa McCarthy because one of them is more classically beautiful. The great thing about encouraging diversity in literally every area of life is that there are unlimited kinds of funny, a broad spectrum of looks and characters and gags. How much richer would our movies and TV shows be if instead of encouraging the best-titted physical specimens who are also funny we tried to encourage the best female comedians regardless of looks or “type?” Can we have female Steven Wrights and Demetri Martins and David Crosses and Emo Philipses, comics who are weird-looking but are never obligated to address it because they’re men?
So I’m going to try to be more conscious of my compliments. There’s nothing wrong with telling women they’re beautiful, but keeping those compliments out of the talents arena is so important. Otherwise our little girls grow up to believe that being pretty is an accomplishment, and that it makes them better than other little girls, which makes them entitled and competitive and catty and vicious, which in turn makes them marry for money and status and be on reality TV, and teach a new crop of little girls to be bratty and shallow and dumb. And the whole time they’re not learning math or science or much of anything at all, because being smart isn’t sexy, and they don’t know how to have self-esteem outside of their looks. Let’s ask them about their day in school, and whether they’re proud of how they did on their Bio quiz, and stop calling them pretty-pretty princesses, so maybe they grow up into women who will even out the gender gap that plagues our country in nearly every industry, and these charts will have a lot more fuchsia in them: http://www.upworthy.com/a-chart-about-silence-that-will-leave-you-speechless?g=2&c=bm1
But let’s start small. The next time you or I list a woman’s accomplishments, can we agree to keep her tight ass out of it?