Monday, February 1, 2016

Witness: Anything you can do...

One day, I was sitting at a table with a friend preparing to play a game. We're joking about how one nerd culture thing or another is sexist. My friend, being the clever girl she is, turns and looks at me and goes. "I can be misogynistic if I want!"

I give her my quirked eyebrow what-you-just-said-is-problematic look.

She grins at me.

"Anything men can do I can do."

We laugh. It's funny. But what underlies that joke, that women would want to participate in misogyny because anything men can do we can do too, is a horrible and upsetting truth. Just as men uphold the patriarchy and culture of sexism we've come to see as a normal tint on the world, women do it too.

How women participate in sexism is different (usually) then how men do. With men it's often less subtle. At least, the men I deal with. They like things that remind them of the good ole days. They comment on a woman's appearance via her attractiveness (nice tits, ass, etc). They talk about women as objects. They talk over women. They ignore women. They say women aren't helpful. They default to men.

But the subtlety of the patriarchy sneaks its way into the words and actions of women. The easiest example of this is slut shaming. Men participate in this too, but women also do this an alarming amount. They talk about her skirt being too short or her shirt too low or that she's such a slut because she's slept with x, y, and x. We cut women down based on what we see as what makes them valuable.

Women are praised for being less sexually experienced. So to devalue another woman, we say she's easy. We say she's ugly because men value looks. We say she's using too much makeup, implying she's hiding how ugly she is. We use common misogynistic language to tear each other down, like bitch, cunt, whore, slut, and others. It's casually misogynistic and yet we routinely engage in it.

Fat shaming and thin shaming and body shaming are perpetuated by women. Treating women without respect because of their opinions is another common tactic. "When are you going to have children?" "I'm not." "Oh, you'll change your mind when you're older." Women routinely disrespect other women on gender biases. Our gender roles, that of being caregiver and mother, are tossed in our faces when we choose not to participate in them. Women will comment on how good of a partner or wife other women are.

The social construction of what makes a woman are the very same tools we use to tear women down. Women perpetuate misogyny. I've slut shamed. I've called someone a bitch. I've used female anatomy as derogatory words. I've told people they'd change their mind about having kids. And all these things have happened to me by women.

So what do you do when the people who are supposed to be your allies are also the ones perpetuating the problem? Same thing you'd do if it were a man. Educate. Have a conversation. Begin the wheels turning in their head. I find when I confront a woman about sexism, she's less inclined to threaten me, in fact, I've never been threatened by a woman when called on being sexist. That's only happened to me with men.

We need to stop engaging in the sexist culture we live in. We, as a group, need to support one another and have great conversations. Sexism is everywhere. We need to pull it apart from any angle we can. And one of those will be ending the women against women dynamics we're encouraged to take part in.


  1. Well said!

    I used to think it was a generational thing in some respects too. That the older women got, the more conservative they got, but then I realized that's not very true. And though things like religion and class and general life experiences play a role, it's the pervasiveness of our culture that makes it so easy to just fall into the sexist tropes again and again.

    But I also have never been threatened by another woman when pointing out sexism. I've gotten that I'm too sensitive or that I see sexism everywhere (because it is, actually, everywhere), but never the threats I'd get from men. I suppose, deep down, we all know there's a line, and it's been crossed with us before - we've all been threatened at some point with some sort of violence for just being female, and so we fall short, in general, of perpetuating that part of sexism.

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