Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.

Monday, April 2, 2012

21st Century Misogyny

A few days ago, a friend of mine posted a link to the article “5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women” from to my Facebook wall. At first, I was intrigued; could this be some kind of cultural critique about gender roles and why our social construction of gender is so harmful to everyone involved? I was excited at the prospect of seeing how the author, David Wong, would handle this issue, and hoped the article would address some of the roots of sexism and misogyny in our society.Perhaps I was being a bit too optimistic, but even so, I found myself sorely disappointed at the end of the article, and frankly rather pissed.

The piece started out strong by bringing up the Sandra Fluke and Rush Limbaugh debacle from a few weeks ago, discussing how horrible Limbaugh’s comments were. But, Wong notes, Limbaugh is an outlandish person who is supposed to make horrible comments for attention. “If you really want to feel all dead inside,” he writes, “you need to listen to what the regular folk were saying.” Wong is referring to the fact that while Limbaugh’s statements got plenty of attention, it was the comments of regular people (particularly on the internet) that were especially disturbing, because they are indicative of the feelings of the larger culture, a culture which is often misogynistic.

I still had hope for the article – it was raising good points in need of examination and discussion – but here is where it started to go sour.

The first item on the list, called “We Were Told That Society Owes Us a Hot Girl,” begins, “Does it seem like men feel kind of entitled to sex? Does it seem like we react to rejection with the maturity of a child being denied a toy?” Wong argues that this sense of “entitlement,” as well as the ensuing temper tantrum, is to be blamed on movies – the lead male always gets the girl, and so men assume that they will, too. The hot girl will have sex with him because he is the hero of his own life story and that’s just how it works.

It can be said that romantic comedies have women convinced that they’ll land the man, too. But the “entitlement” aspect of it – the concept that the main character’s love interest is obligated to have sex with him – is absolutely absurd. No one is obligated to sleep with anyone else for any reason. And to react with what Wong himself compares to the petulance of a toddler is undeniably ridiculous. But I could still see that Wong’s reasoning, though horrifying, is the reasoning that many men share. I continued reading, expecting Wong to denounce this thinking, to explain that frankly, you may think you’re awesome, but that doesn’t mean you deserve to get into someone else’s pants.
Instead, I get this:

So it's very frustrating, and I mean frustrating to the point of violence, when we don't get what we're owed. A contract has been broken. These women, by exercising their own choices, are denying it to us. It's why every Nice Guy is shocked to find that buying gifts for a girl and doing her favors won't win him sex. It's why we go to "slut" and "whore" as our default insults -- we're not mad that women enjoy sex. We're mad that women are distributing to other people the sex that they owed us.

I pretty much lost it. First of all, under no circumstances whatsoever is violence justified because one was denied consent to sex. And when did women enter into this “contract”? Wong alleges that by virtue of women being able to choose whether or not to consent, men are being denied the payment they “deserve” for getting through their day-to-day lives.

At no point does Wong say that this is wrong. There is no mention of how entirely abhorrent it is to think like this. He simply states that this is the way that the world works and that it’s not his fault, so just deal with it.

In the next item on the list, which is about the apparently decorative purposes of women, Wong writes, “From my experience, if there is a fundamental difference between male and female sexuality, it's this: There are actual occasions where women aren't thinking about sex.” It’s statements like these, which imply that men are essentially incapable of thought beyond the next time they’re going to get laid, that are hurtful to both women and men. It’s hurtful to women because it objectifies them so tremendously, but it’s especially hurtful to men, because it basically discounts their abilities to be functioning human beings. Men are not beasts; they are sentient human beings who are capable of a vast range of emotions besides “horny.” In addition, by telling people that men simply can’t help themselves, it leaves women with the “responsibility” to deny men their ultimate goal, demonizing women simply for not wanting to have sex with someone.

Wong continues that women are meant to be beautiful and that men tear apart women who aren’t attractive because they get “pissed” when a woman doesn’t live up to what they are told women are supposed to be like. How is it that in the 21st century, women still have to fight the idea that they’re purely for show? How can someone in this day and age still believe to their core – believe to the point that they will rip apart a Supreme Court Justice for not being pretty enough – that women serve no purpose other than to please a man?

If a woman is pretty, though, she’s still in trouble, because then her attractiveness is a weapon used against men to get what she wants. Again, men just can’t help themselves – it’s biology!

All I'm saying is when you see guys actually get annoyed or angry at the sight of a girl showing too much skin, or if you see them eager to degrade or humiliate the girls at the strip club, this is why. It's probably why some Muslims make their women cover themselves head to toe.

Basically, as a woman, your only options are to be hated because you’re supposed to be pretty and you’re not, or to be hated because you’re too pretty. According to Wong, men lack the ability to see women in any terms other than attractiveness.

Unsurprisingly, the argument that men have been emasculated also arises in the article. Wong says that all men want is to be womanizers, and because that’s not considered acceptable in polite society, they feel that their very manhood has been stolen from them. Men used to be barbaric warriors – Wong specifically cites the characters from 300 – but women forced them to become tame, and therefore men should hate them.
All of the wrong things that men do? You can blame “Darth Penis” for it all. Not the man – he can’t control himself! It’s his penis, and its attraction to those evil women and their evil, evil cleavage!

Wong’s last item on the list is that men feel “powerless”. Why? Because women. Because women are becoming successful. Because women are attractive. Because all men want to do is impress their woman, so that she’ll be obligated to have sex with him, so that she will love him and he can be validated, and so they bend over backwards, try to gain as much power as possible, and at the end of the day, it’s just not enough for those awful women. Wong claims that everything in this world has occurred because men worship women. Because they want women and they want to deserve women, and so really, men are never going to stop hating women, because women make them feel inadequate.

The bottom line is that Wong’s argument claims that men hate women because women do not do exactly what men want all the time. Women make their own choices, and they gain power, and they expect men to be functional human beings rather than barbarians. The tag-team of women, with their attractiveness and elusiveness, and the apparently wildly uncontrollable male sex drive, which Wong alleges completely overpowers men’s abilities to make sound decisions, are to blame for everything.

No. I mean, I can't put it any more simply than that. Wong's arguments are just wrong.

Men hate women because we live in a misogynist society that tells men they should hate women. We live in a society that tells men that they’re not responsible for their actions, that they deserve sex from whomever, whenever, that women are trophies to be won, and if the trophy isn’t shiny enough, she deserves whatever she gets. And all of these things lead to a culture in which women aren’t safe – they aren’t safe from baseless hatred, from violence, from rape. It’s true that men are taught these things that Wong mentions, but what’s missing from Wong’s assessment of society is the part where men are told to grow up and stop acting like spoiled toddlers. At no point does he explain that any of this is wrong. But it is, and it needs to be changed.

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