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‘Men and Women’ Category

  1. “It’s Just a Joke” – Upholding the Status Quo with Comedy

    December 20, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    Trigger Warnings: Discussion of comedy relating to rape/sexual assault and other gross behavior.

    I’m sure you’ve been here before. Someone tells a crappy joke about something that makes you feel gross. You make the mistake of telling the person how you feel.

    “It’s just a joke, god, stop taking it so seriously.”

    Comedy is one of the oldest and most potent forms of narrative and can be endlessly complex. It’s just as capable at diminishing societal structures as it is upholding them; lately it feels like comedy has done a better job propping them up than not. This topic has circulated quite a few times around individual incidents and the discussion about the incident in particular tends to bar a larger conversation about why this occurs at all, ever. But why do people (particularly men) make these jokes at all?  To me, it is privilege acting in place of reality. Now, granted, comedy happens in many different forms and in many different ways and a lot of what we find funny differs from culture to culture, or what kind of comedy you’ve been exposed to. However, our comedy has been dominated by the same patriarchal norms as everything else, so I feel a lot of what people find funny is entrenched in the same bullshit that’s been around everything else. Hence, shitty comedy and shitty jokes. But what constitutes to “good” and what constitutes “shitty”? Here’s some of my loose guidelines for comedy that have served me pretty well:

    1. Comedy subverts the audience’s expectations.
    2. Satire kicks up, not down.
    3. Don’t make jokes about an intrinsic facet of someone.
    4. Don’t mock awful things that haven’t happened to you.
    5. Know your audience and don’t joke about things that you have no way of knowing about them.
    6. If you make a joke that hurts someone, fucking apologize.

     

    (I can already hear cries of people not understanding how you can be funny adhering to most of those rules, in the distance.)

    Privilege and patriarchy in Western society (which is what I’m addressing) often makes people not follow a great portion of these rules from the outset and keep reinforcing this nonsense. I believe this is because the expectations (and by nature, reality even) comedians or other joke-tellers work to” subvert” are vastly different than the people they are squashing down with their jokes.

    It should stand to reason that a lot the problematic comedy that upholds this latticework of oppressive norms comes from men. Not only is the comedy rife with -ist behavior  but a lot of how men react to being told their jokes are problematic is something that begs to be looked at. I believe so many jokes that tumble out of dude’s mouths are there because we’re still soaked in a culture that reinforces one idea but is incredibly different from a lot of people’s lived experiences. Hence, why some jokes a dude makes (particularly if he’s also white, cisgendered, able, or heterosexual, et al) tend to only be funny to other dudes. They predicate on subverting the expectations of a reality that they’ve inhabited their entire lives, one that that hasn’t been examined, and blinds them to other people’s. They make fun of groups of people they have had power over all their lives, they diminish experiences they’ve never lived in fear of or had happen to them, and they use painful subjects as fodder for punchlines because they’ve never been stung by them.

    How are people even hurt by jokes, I seem to hear a lot. People who tell shitty jokes don’t even realize that they are shitty to someone, mostly going back to this idea that it is a reality that they don’t inhabit. And quite often the defense is that it is merely a joke and meant to be “funny.” The problem with this line of thinking is that jokes can fail. They can fail spectacularly and cause emotional distress for people if you choose to make a joke about something serious. I mean, just like you have eaten shitty versions of your favorite food, a joke is not going to be successful or worthy of a laugh every time you make it. The idea that a joke begs laughter by the virtue of being a joke, or your dazzling comedic taste, is faulty. It goes back to this egotistical idea of men being centered in this idea that everything they say, including jokes, is valuable. When they are criticized, rightfully so, they double down and refuse to acknowledge other’s feelings or that it failed. To do so would mean thinking about what their words mean, or that they somehow weren’t right about this reality they are fixated on.

    This kind of egoism and defensiveness over criticism seems to occur a lot when I see call-outs happen from people who were hurt or upset by comedy. It is this conflict again between the reality that makes these jokes seem reasonable and people who are actually hurt by these topics in real life. Men who grab for rape as a punchline get salty because they want the freedom to really make that edgy joke, to really go THAT far to prove a point or elicit a joke, regardless of who is hurt by it. Jokes are more important than someone’s feelings. Especially in the case of where these men make money off doing jokes like this, whether it is a stand-up, or a webcomic, they feel that their job and cash flow is at stake if they can’t make any joke or content that they want. It is the terror that lurks in the dark for them – the idea that their freedom and livelihood is going to be gobbled up by some straw feminists telling them what to do. In reality, a lot of it comes down to content creators being aware that their audience makes their livelihoods possible and hurting people with jokes is a pretty terrible thing to do. It doesn’t take much to earn goodwill back with your supporters if you really listen and look at the criticism. Accept that people could be hurt, and just apologize. I don’t know why this is such a hard thing to do, but given that we’re dealing with privilege and years of ingrained beliefs, digging in your heels seems to be the thing shitty joke-makers like to do the most.

    Now, despite the fact that there’s been some egregious examples of this shitty joke problem out there, what really kicked off this conversation that’s been happening in my brain over the past year was actually something that happened on Twitter.

    Twitter has been really interesting to watch over the years that I’ve been participating in it; the idea of it having a unique brand of comedy that exists in 140 characters is pretty neat. A lot of it focuses on hyper-fast jokes that setup and hit the punchline in a couple words, other times it undermines normalcy with absurdist or even Dada-esque flights. Some people make jokes as part of their normal minutiae and others tend to make it the focus of their Twitter persona. While Twitter has an extremely high quotient of funny ladies, the problems I’ve had recently have fallen squarely on the shoulders of male-dominated discourse and joke-telling. Despite it being a brave new medium for expression, I find that a lot of it still supports an ultimately male-envisioned reality. Jokes that routinely focus on casting the dude in question as the gross, macabre or ultimately “weird”  can be funny but fall along the same lines despite being anti-egotistical. There’s nothing funny about jokes that cast you as a sexual predator, and there’s nothing subversive about your boners, dudes. I got mad at two of my friends for doing weird jokes about flashing people at a fairground and masturbating on public buses. Two things similar to this have happened to me in my life and both times it wasn’t hilarious or “weird,” it was scary and upsetting. This is the largest and most confusing example of “people making gross jokes living in a reality remarkably different than their audience” being that they use situations that alienate a lot of us (particularly women) as fodder for self-deprecating humor rather than remarking on why these things are a problem. The problem with a lot of it that focus on sexual situations in particular is that history has long been about men being amused by their sexuality, their aggressiveness and their own folly. However, it is the mark of privilege to suggest that it is hilarious to any of us on the receiving end have found it laughable this entire time.

    So, what can we ultimately do about this? Keep saying something. Keep speaking up. Deconstructing humor, having discussions about why these kinds of jokes are not okay and most importantly, people looking into their privilege and the criticism and not being giant douchebags about it. Take your audience seriously. Examine your situation and how it differs from other people’s. Stop trying to do satire when you are the dominant ruling party.  Stop trying to hide behind irony – there’s nothing ironic about ape-ing the prevailing culture. And most importantly, learn how to listen and apologize sincerely when you fuck up. Because at some point, you probably will. Apologies will go a long way – it might not be very funny, but sometimes things aren’t.


  2. Reader Mail: Female Sexuality

    July 18, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    The other night I got a glowing e-mail from two of my readers (hi Kaeli and Candace!) who follow me on Twitter. It was really amazing to read someone’s heartfelt expressions of gratitude, but most of the letter that quite a few questions for me. My answer, in my mind, was a little too big, so I decided to answer it here instead of privately. Here is the e-mail, slightly edited to take out the effusive praise, since I’m already blushing:

    Hello!

    I’m a seventeen-year-old female from Canada, and I have a question for you, which I will get around to asking eventually. I actually stumbled across your blog and Twitter account while educating myself on feminism in March. Up until a few months ago, the word ‘feminist’ conjured up an image of an emotionally unstable, man-hating woman that would assign sexist undertones to issues that didn’t even exist in the first place. I thought it was more than obvious that women were just being irrational. I thought it was more than obvious that sexism hasn’t existed for decades and anyone who said that it was institutionalized in our society was ignorant and delusional. I thought a lot of ridiculous things, which I now realize was only indicative of how I was the one being irrational, ignorant, and delusional.

    [snip praise here]

    Now that I’ve expressed my admiration for you, I can get into the meat of this topic: the concept of raunch culture and how it affects the expression of female sexuality. This is something that has been on my mind since reading your blog post about male validation. I have held the belief that women should not be defined by or condemned for their sexuality. If a woman wants to wear make-up because it’s what she wants to do for herself, she should be able to without being demonized for it. If a woman wants to wear a short skirt because it’s what she wants to do for herself, she should be able to without being demonized for it. If a woman wants to be open about her sexuality for herself, she should be able to without being demonized for it. The issue that I am presenting to you is: are women really doing it for themselves? Has the seeking of male validation and the male gaze become so ingrained in women and internalized by them, that though they think performances of sexuality are empowering, they are actually only doing it for the approval of men?

    I was thinking that female sexuality is only portrayed by the media in a very specific (and possibly skewed) manner that is meant to appeal only to heterosexual men, yet it is still repressed in a way. As an example, I feel that when men are shown frontally nude in mainstream movies, it is for comedic effect, but the depiction of a nude female is something that is usually erotically charged to fulfill male desire. However, I feel like female genitalia is rarely shown in mainstream movies, which is maybe telling of how female sexuality is actually repressed to a certain degree. I feel like this issue can be applied to pornographic movies as well. I have been pro-pornography despite having issues with how very performative it is on the part of women as it dictates a stifling standard of what is sexy and what is not. I feel like heterosexual porn is usually focused on the woman performing and acting “sexy” in that very specific way for the satisfaction of a heterosexual male viewer; girl-on-girl porn is fetishized and equally as performative on part of the women involved, again, for the satisfaction of a heterosexual male viewer, while porn involving only men is looked down upon because it does not satisfy a heterosexual male viewer. After deciding to research this idea further, I stumbled across a book that addresses this issue called Female Chauvinist Pigs (you have likely heard of it because u r supr smrt, but I will briefly explain it just in case you haven’t). I read a synopsis of it because I am too poor to afford the paperback (lmao), but it argues that “many women engage in performances of sexuality that are not expressions of their individual sexuality, but are designed for the pleasure of the male observer(s)”. I feel like maybe it’s an issue of the oppressed trying to please their oppressors in a feeble attempt to avoid discrimination; in this case, women sexually objectifying themselves to attain an equal status to men by making themselves sexual playthings and basically the embodiment of white, heterosexual male desire. 

    This has left me questioning my own sexuality and how I express it, and whether I am doing it for personal liberation or if I am unintentionally perpetuating stereotypes of what female sexuality is. Now, I am a white, heterosexual female and I have a white, heterosexual, cisgendered boyfriend who is twenty-years-old. I know that seeking male validation is something that is so deeply entrenched in me and I want to continue to distance myself from it. I know that sexual acts with somebody should be fulfilling for yourself, as well as pleasing for the other person regardless of their gender or sex. I am worried that my boyfriend’s expectations for what constitutes “being sexy” are these terribly performance-based acts, and that I possibly am only doing things for his satisfaction. When I buy “sexy” underwear, maybe it only makes me feel confident because I receive approval from a man for following these arbitrary standards for what “sexy” is. When I do my makeup before my boyfriend comes over, maybe it only makes me feel confident because I am conforming to the conventional standards of beauty, which my boyfriend might approve of. When I have sex with my boyfriend, maybe I mostly enjoy it because I am pleasing a man by objectifying myself in a manner that satisfies the male gaze.

    These are all only ideas that I am throwing around as I am unsure of how I feel, so I am wondering what you think of the issues that I’ve presented to you, and the ideology explained in Female Chauvinist Pigs. What is your opinion on pornography, the portrayal of female sexuality, and where the line is drawn between obtaining personal fulfillment and seeking male approval? I am dying of anxiousness to hear your response, be it over e-mail or through a blog post. Please keep in mind that I turned seventeen in December and that I still don’t have anywhere near a full grasp on any of these issues. I apologize for the long (and likely convoluted) e-mail.

    YOU ARE FUQQIN’ RAD AS HELL,
    Kaeli

    There’s a lot of stuff to break down here. Female sexuality is one of those giant, looming topics that feminism always struggles to talk about from a myriad of angles. Where a feminist falls in her beliefs about those facets tends to fall around some pretty weighty questions:

    1. How is female sexuality being performed? 
    2. Who is this performance for?
    3. How is it being received?

    The answers that feminists struggle with, even within themselves as sexual beings, has given rise to quite a few schools of thought and I definitely have a lot of feelings on the matter.

    I too feel that women should not be defined or condemned for their sexuality. The reason for this is because sexual performances from a woman are just as valid as a man’s. Women’s sexuality and sexual acts have long been regarded as dirty or should be kept secret, or only for men. This is extremely erroneous and definitely comes from patriarchal culture. Removing stigma from women acting in a sexual way that is for themselves is a big part of that. Accepting that sexual performances are for the person performing them and her intended sexual audience (which very often does not include men, see: queer women) is pretty key  here.

    But herein lies the problem, and you addressed this with your question: are women doing it for themselves?

    This is a question that even I ask myself on a regular basis. It’s exceptionally hard to point at any one woman acting sexually and make that judgement, especially as other women. But if we look at the culture at large, it becomes pretty obvious to us that a lot of sexual performances seem to be done for and designed with a male audience in mind. This is what is referred to in media criticism as the “male gaze.” It assumes that the person viewing a woman behaving sexually in popular media is always a heterosexual man. How heterosexual men have defined women’s sexuality is fairly narrow and centered on themselves, and thus these performances are rigid and ties into a lot more sinister ideas about a woman’s consent, her autonomy as a person, her body being public property and sex being violent. So, seemingly, in media especially, women are not performing sexually for themselves. But it’s very hard to point at a particular woman and say that. We have to look at these issues in a larger fashion lest we get caught up in focusing on women and not what women have been oppressed by.

    A lot of this comes back to your points about choice – women make choices. Choice feminism itself revolves around that idea, that women have a variety of paths they can create for themselves. Third wave feminism largely is about that; what it means to be a “woman” is everything and how a woman defines it. My criticism of choice feminism in general though, as well as just the whole “I want to do this” is when we don’t look hard at why we are making those choices. A lot of times, they might not really be a choice at all. A choice insinuates making conscious decisions between a multitude of options. The things we do as women, as feminists, are not inherently feminist or for ourselves by the mere act itself because a lot of our motivations are so thoroughly ingrained in what male-driven culture expects of us. Our so-called “options” are limited. This is what I was trying to clarify in my last blog post. The things I do, despite identifying as feminist, may not always be feminist. This comes sharply into focus when the subject is female sexuality. We as women need to identify the structures of patriarchy that define us and try to reject them. We need to examine our own motivations and performances for things that might not be our authentic selves. The depressing part is that there might not be a way of completely unburdening yourself from these pressures; it might be just things you are not comfortable with doing (like say, keeping body hair) or it might be harmful for you to do so (there are legitimately dangerous downsides to some women not behaving “properly” around men). But what I urge you, and any other woman to do, is just look at where the choices you make come from. No one should fault you for performing in a way that plays well with male-driven sexuality but it is something to look at critically. This is why it is so hard sometimes to not feel guilty or ashamed, even if you are a feminist, because you feel like everything you do is under a microscope, especially if you predominantly interact with men in a sexual way. I’m a queer woman and I still feel the sting of this. Even women who identify as lesbian/queer can still feel the problematic glare of what women are expected to enjoy or look like in the bedroom. A lot of feminists have asserted that it’s very hard to act as a sexual being completely free from the desires of patriarchy at all. Dworkin herself even said that consent (which is whole other facet of sexual performance, especially with regards to rape culture) is meaningless in our society. It gives you a lot to think about.

    Pornography, by that line of thinking, is one of the hottest spots of debate within feminism especially when it comes to choice, pervasive male culture and sex performance. On the surface, it seems like it should exist. I believe that, ideally, women can be a part of this media or create this media themselves for their sexual appetites and entertainment. This is an extremely idealistic and surface view. The problem that so many feminists, as well as myself, have with pornography (rather than women who participate in it), is that it was created and is shaped by quite a few rigid and dangerous views of sexuality. It is a fairly exploitative industry and peddles a lot of disgusting, dangerous views about women’s bodies, sexuality and sexual autonomy. A lot of women who are involved in pornography make the choice to be there, but a lot of them are coerced or pressured due to financial concerns. Sex workers in general need our regard, rather our scorn. A lot of the practices and business involved in sex work are corrupt, involve themselves blindly or knowingly in human trafficking or “softer” means of involving women in porn, prostitution or stripping. Pornography is a huge business that makes a lot of money off exploiting the performances of women. These performances, especially in mainstream porn made for men and by men, reinforce a lot of problematic ideas. Not all pornography is bad, truly, but the idea and the presentation of so much of it is legitimately harmful as well as harmful to the women who participate. This is largely why it is such a contentious topic. My feelings on the matter is that we should abolish pornography as a media form dominated by men, upheld by coercive and inhumane practices and promoting unhealthy attitudes towards sex. Pornography in a lot of ways is an extension of our culture’s views on women’s place in sex and her performances therein. Creating porn that embodies healthy attitudes, non-coercive behaviour, and treats its participants fairly and equitably is what I’d love to see in the future but that seems like an unrealistic goal at this time. However, at this present moment, we need to save our regard and criticism for the culture and industry and not shame sex work participants.

    In that vein, I can see where the confusion comes from how you personally express yourself as a sexual being. So much of the lessons we are taught as women is that there is very strict consequences for not obliging a man’s sexual desires. That our sexuality is tied into acting one way, looking a certain way. It loops back and conflicts with itself because it is a design not of our own making. It doesn’t respect us as individuals, only as things to be consumed and molded. Women are objectified to the extreme and we are no more than dolls, it seems. How are you supposed to feel sexy when we’re constantly surrounded by stuff like this? This is a question I’ve struggled to answer all my life and I’m still not sure myself. Having feminism at your back helps, but you still feel beholden to what culture believes about us sexually. Understanding where sexual culture comes from and how you fit into it helps. Knowing where your choices comes from also helps. But holding yourself up to a ridiculously impossible standard when it comes to “pleasing men” will probably be hard. No one is perfect, especially if you interact sexually with men, and as I mentioned before, there isn’t always a safe way to express yourself completely. Making sure you are safe and content is the best you can do sometimes, and if that means a pair of panties, then you go right ahead. The problem a lot of women don’t recognize about ourselves is that we’re not the ones “making mistakes” when we fail to live outside pervasive sexual culture. We’re not the ones who created the so-called “gilded cage” we find ourselves locked up in. Women perform sexually in regards to men because it is how you make it in our society some days.  It is all part of our terrible bargain that we’ve struck, being born into a world that doesn’t treat us as equals. But it means that if we want to navigate safely through it, we have to do things we might not want to, and it doesn’t mean you’re failing as a person and especially not as a woman or feminist.

    To Kaeli and Candace: I know it’s super hard sometimes. These are questions we all wrestle with as women, especially as feminists. How do we make choices like this, especially when they never feel like choices at all? How do we deal with the things we do and how do we make ourselves happy? To me, the key to that is constantly learning and growing, fighting. I wish I had known these things at your age, as it has taken me years of shame, struggle and danger to get where I am now at 30 years old. You guys seem like very self-aware, intelligent women and the idea that you’re going to navigate your adult years armed with more information and reflection than I did at that age makes me feel gladdened. This is why I do the things I do, to make sure that people see what I learned the hard way and spared that. I’m glad you guys wrote me. There is intense, immense strength in reaching out to other women with these questions and that’s ultimately why feminism is so important. Asking the tough things of yourself and others, and being unafraid to reach out for help and discussion is what props you up on the days when shit gets you down. Read all you can, talk to as many women as you can, fill your head with knowledge, criticism and love.

    Thank you for writing, I hope I answered you guys satisfactorily.

     

     

     

     


  3. The Problematic Fix: Addicted to Male Validation and Female Competitiveness

    July 12, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    It’s really no surprise to anyone that I spend a lot of time reading and Twitter and blogs; what really catches me off guard is when something current puts a fine point on things that I’m wrestling with inside of my head. The combination usually results in a torrent of tweets on the subject for 140-character consumption or, in this instance, a complete blog post. I won’t say that this is the most cohesive of topics I’ve ever covered, but I definitely have a lot of things to say.

    Take the Sociological Images post written by Caroline Heldman that lit a fire under my ass this week; it’s a 3-part series on Sexual Objectification and Women. Part 3 specifically pertains to how we as women can help break the habits that we participate in when it comes to being beholden to the male gaze and more-over, male validation of our sexual identities. The language in the post has a definitely “mental health” nuance to it that wasn’t lost on me. A lot of my therapy visits lately have focused very strongly on the idea that my self-worth and anxiety problems have ties to how I seek attention and meet expectations from the men in my life. This is not just something that is unique to me or a function of my brain chemisty, this is due to how women in general are socialized.

    Wakin’ Up

    Do you drink coffee? Do you drink it a lot? Imagine how hard it is to wake up in the morning if you don’t get a cup of coffee into you. You feel sluggish. You get headaches. Overall you feel gross and weird. When you actually get some into you, you feel alive and awake again. This is what male validation does to me and what I’m working on undoing. We are trained from birth to think of ourselves in relation to how men view us: aesthetically, sexually and even personally. We struggle to mold ourselves into what the men in our lives, in our society want us to be. It’s pretty easy to see then, why this has a hold on some people. I get a little jolt when I seem attractive or pleasing to men. Brains love stuff like this and thrive on it, and while I’m not a psychologist, in the slightest, it means that working yourself out of this kind of Pavlovian response is beyond difficult. But it is necessary for continued mental and personal health. I can’t live like this, especially when it runs in such deep conflict with my particular identities as a sexual woman and a feminist.

    Looking back on my life, especially in light of this revelation, I see what I’ve been grappling with as the source to many of my unanswered anxieties. The intersection of needing male validation with my status as a queer woman, as well as a trauma/abuse survivor makes all of this intensely problematic. How am I supposed to fully express myself in a sexual way towards all gender expressions when so much of my time and attention is tied up in pleasing only men? Why am I seeking so much praise and love from the same group of people who have routinely hurt me in my life? It is stuff like this that makes unwinding the tangle of emotions, questions and mental health concerns so difficult. When I find myself so wrapped up in a break-up that I carry feelings of worthlessness and suicidal ideation for years, I know I have to change. It’s not fair to me, it’s not fair to my lovers and friends. It’s like living half a life. Up until this point, though, I’ve just been too scared to “get myself off” of that male attention, literal or socially abstract. Even after my transformation into an aware feminist, it’s still so much a part of my everyday life that I find myself unable to know a starting point.

    This is where I feel the the SI article had some good tips, even if I didn’t agree with all of them. (Don’t hassle retail employees, they are just trying to do their jobs!) But it at least gave me a place to start really undoing some of the basement-level (as I like to call it) drives for male attention and respect. Much like how I was taught in therapy to sit down and work through what causes my anxiety and “undo the chain” of catastrophizing and fixation, I feel the same needs to be done with problematic elements of socialization. The article addresses this in a lot of very common sense ways that might seem hard at first, but are definitely do-able.

    The biggest part of this is just saying, “I don’t need you” to the idea of men’s attention. I know it seems extreme: don’t we want the men we DO care about to pay attention to us, to care? Well, yes. But that’s because they are important to us. But their ideas about us should not supersede our own ideas about ourselves. Do you see the distinction?  You don’t even have to believe that phrase at first. A big part of breaking through anxiety for me was the whole “fake it until you make it” mentality. I don’t believe I’m really okay at first, but repeating it enough until I am at least helps the process along.  The process is as such:

    • Identify why male validation and gaze exists, why we are trained to find it important and how it is expressed.
    • Reject it from the outset, in both mindset, word and deed.
    • Discredit their validation and how important it actually is.

    Over time, it should cause us to see our opinions of ourselves and actions relating to that as being healthy, important and the determining factor for how we conduct ourselves. But don’t get mad if you can’t “get this” immediately. Much like anxiety, breaking stuff like this that is so deeply ingrained is so hard. When it permeates the culture, our media and our personal lives, don’t be frustrated if you fall back into it without even thinking. It takes a concerted effort and a lot of vigilance. But hopefully for my sake, and our sake, we can accomplish this.

    One morning, we might just wake up and not need that cup of coffee to jolt us.

    Smokin’ Hot and Unable to Be Friends

    One of the biggest problems that the list illuminated was not only how pervasive male validation is but how much it keeps us women apart from eachother:

    The rules of the society we were born into require us to compete with other women for our own self-esteem. The game is simple. The “prize” is male attention, which we perceive of as finite, so when other girls/women get attention, we lose. This game causes many of us to reflexively see other women as “natural” competitors, and we feel bad when we encounter women who garner more male attention, as though it takes away from our worth. We walk into parties and see where we fit in the “pretty girl pecking order.” We secretly feel happy when our female friends gain weight. We criticize other women’s hair, clothing, and other appearance choices. We flirt with other women’s boyfriends to get attention, even if we’re not romantically interested in them.

    This is something I’ve been struggling with for most of my adult life. In middle school and high school I had no problems at all being friends with women and accepting them into my life, even as a burgeoning baby-queer, but as soon as I got to college, most of the brainwashing had already taken place. I was a viciously jealous and territorial lady who found herself at odds with my darkest desires to be close to women – as friends, partners, etc.  This need for men to want me, to see me as better than other women, to “win” their love and attention was gross and it is completely stemming from how patriarchy structures the focus and attention on men’s desires paramount to everything else. If women don’t compete with each other, if they don’t see the need to compete because men’s views on them aren’t important, it falls apart. But how many years of relationships has it cost me? Why did I need to do that? I don’t WANT TO BE competitive with women in my life ever again. I don’t NEED to be. It’s stupid! It’s childish! Who gives a shit what men think of me, or think of me in relation to others? We’re all different and weird and unique. The idea that someone is prettier or smarter or more “worthy” of a relationship with a particular dude is a really fucked up idea. We’re not animals and we’ve moved past just that need to get our genes out there. Some of us aren’t even interested in procreating.

    Undoing centering men’s opinions about myself will lead to me being able to let women back into my life in a healthy way. I’ve made some really great strides towards this, especially where it regards online spaces: women flourish and we find ourselves seeing strength and beauty in eachother. My World of Warcraft guild is full of women that I consider close friends that I want to know for the rest of my life. This has been a major force in renewing my commitment to my own place in the world of women as it doesn’t relate to men. It’s kept at least a part of my life, particularly one that had been so bad about it before, off of needing men to constrain and support my identity and worth. We as women game together and provide attention that isn’t weighted down by societal expectations.

    The downside to this is whenever a woman who still buys into this comes into the mix. Am I strong enough to resist the temptation of bad habits? Like an ex-smoker that sees a group of people puffing away outside, the desire and the weakness always feels like a ghost lurking in the background. Brushes with women like this in the past have made me slide back into those things I hate most about feminine competition: the relentless, exhausting chattiness and “talking up”, preening for men, and aggressively nitpicking myself and the woman in question. Within the confines of a game, where competitiveness is already asserted as a function, it becomes even more noticeable. Group discussions become draining where once they were fun because you’re constantly trying to one-up eachother, trying to look good. Things like dungeons or PVP become intense challenges about who does better “numbers.” And really, it isn’t their fault. I’m not mad at them; I’m really mad at myself for letting it get to me again, to not embrace this woman and get her out of it. Or to remove the problematic male element from the scenario, if there is one. But I’m weak a lot. I know this. What Heldman is asking with the “absolute love and tolerance” feels like too much to ask sometimes. I know I’ve failed in the past to overcome those weak moments, despite my best efforts. The best I can do is try.

    I feel that this series has really underscored a lot of complex feelings I’ve had lately or in the past couple of years as a feminist and a queer woman, especially in my little online world, so I am looking forward to more. I feel like my sanity and my interpersonal behavior will benefit from it.

     


  4. Johnny-Come-Lately: Famous Dudes and Sexism

    July 1, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    My silence screams ‘ha ha!’/And you call us wrong either way/It ‘just so happens’ to us everyday.  – Le Tigre

    Look, I’m sick of your shit. I don’t care if you’re famous and “erudite” arbitors of geek culture. I don’t care how many hits your articles or comics get, how many people know your name or laugh at your jokes. You have a big fucking problem right now and that problem is shitty behaviour. You’re all up in arms right now because someone called Felicia Day a “booth babe” but you conveniently forget that there are other, more famous Destructoid writers going around harassing women on Twitter and calling them “feminazi c*nts.”

    I see you, Wil Wheaton, who’s mad his friend got shit on and while I don’t want anyone to get harassed, much less Felicia Day, the idea that you’re just noticing and caring about gaming culture being shitty to women NOW? There’s been tons of other less-famous women who’ve been harassed before and no one gives a shit about them. Gaming and nerd culture turning on women didn’t start with Anita Sarkeesian (though that was horrible), and it definitely didn’t even start with the fucking Dickwolves debacle either. It’s always been there and the fact that nerd guys are shuffling uncomfortably and being angry about it now because it involves someone they care about finally makes me feel sick. Where were you guys when Penny Arcade was being shitty for the umpteenth time; what about what THOSE guys? They’ve been just as instrumental in being shitheads as a couple of Destructoid writers.

    If you really want nerd culture to change, you guys have to start being better people. You – the content creators, the talking heads and the guys who have thousands of followers on Twitter. Don’t sit around and huffily shake your fist at a culture you helped create by not giving a shit about this until now. Get rid of sexist language out of your peers, quash your fans going out and attacking objects of your criticism “for you” and definitely stop grandstanding and using  typically masculine arm-flailing when people say mean things about your women friends. Guess what, men have been saying mean things about any woman that dares to exist on the Internet and they aren’t all Felicia Day. There are a lot of non-successful, non-famous women that have to deal with this crap on the regular. Women you don’t have a close personal connection with need protection too.

    Protection from whom? Protection from Jim Sterling, Penny Arcade as much as a bunch of grognard nerd-types attacking via blog comments or @ replies. This is the shit palace you guys built by not smacking your bros for the awful things they say or joke about in a very real, public setting as much as not putting a muzzle on your fans. You’re mad about nerd culture attacking women? Why don’t you actually DO something about it? Women-bashing is everywhere, especially in nerd culture and none of you are doing a lick of work to help get rid of it. I’ve seen more responsible editorial staffs on blogs with a third of your budgets and twice as many women contributors. I’ve read tons of webcomics that don’t hinge on rape jokes or sexism to get their point across. I’ve seen tons of talking heads that don’t make shitty jokes with their male friends on Twitter.

    This shit doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen because men are threatened by a famous woman. It is because they’re allowed to be shitbags to women for whatever reason they choose. It is because they see us as outsiders, stealing their precious video games and rape jokes, they see us as less. That’s why the insults come out, that is why attack campaigns come out for their amusement, that’s why people are allowed to use anonymity to constantly shit on blogs like this one. It doesn’t help that a lot of them are famous, are well-known and possibly make video games.

    Sexism is coursing through your veins and now that you’ve all become “aware” of it in your precious nerd culture, take the power and privilege you have with all your fancy, angry words and put your vast empires where your mouth is. Realize how hard it is? Now you’ll realize what us nerd women have had to deal with for so long now. It’s not easy. And no one is going to pat you on the back for treating women with respect and watching what you say. This is baseline, basic human stuff here. Caring about others and how you present yourself professionally and publicly requires a much higher regard for your audience than talking amongst friends and you guys, those with so much much pull and reach need to fucking realize that for a second. You have the most responsibility to do the right thing and you need to not run around hoping people praise you for it. You should do it because it is the right thing to do.

    If you got huffy and defensive reading any of this, then you still have a long way to go. Maybe you’ll realize what you need to do now though.

     


  5. Why Females Are Oversexualized in Video Games, An Original Perspective From a Dude

    May 7, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    Okay ladies, let’s sit down and read what has to be the most facile, lazy and unexamined piece of thinking about a subject that faces us daily. I was literally jaw agape at how poorly this article was worked out and let’s face it, not surprised in the slightest. I love it when people who are not affected that much by sexism and haven’t even begun to unpack why that is try to poke at the subject of sexism in popular media. It’s like a jolly youth in summer, swinging off a rope into a lake full of contentious, murky depths and splashing around to his heart’s content without a care in the world. He has his fun then walks out and goes home to dry off.

    It must be a joy to be able to take a particularly thorny idea and not actually think about it real hard.

    It starts off with the notion that heterosexual men (you know, the only sexuality that exists, especially in the gaming world) are enchanted and besotted by women and all that fluffy stuff. They can’t help their natural urges and fixate on women in a sexual way. Just a function of instinct and genes! Men are nothing but their sexual desires! Aughh! Do you know what happens when you start off an article with such nonsense? I don’t feel compelled to read much farther. Not only does it center the world (and our popular media by default) in a hetero-normative fashion (gay men, anyone? NON-MALE SEXUALITY IN GENERAL?) but it presumes the fact that all our actions are largely the result of our inability to rise above base urges. Urges that we all have, right? Wrong. Not only are all humans different with their sexual desires but “urges” is a very soft way of saying “I want to not be held responsible or think about how I view people in a sexual manner.” This is a very easy road to go down and suddenly you’re well into the “I couldn’t help myself, she was wearing that article of clothing I like, and…” I’m pretty sure you all know where this is going. Sexuality and sexual proclivities are always, always the responsibility of the person, and men, you are not free from this. I know that society has trained you away from thinking you are responsible for yourselves, in favor of blaming women and your own shoddy caveman mechanics, but you are not. You are free to make choices and act in a responsible manner towards other people and yourself. Men are not obsessed with women. They want to believe that they are, because we’re this magical mysterious body of flesh that tempts them. It’s an unhinged notion that squarely puts the burden of keeping men sated, amused and “in check” on women, despite us never asking for it, wanting it or even being interested in you. It has been like this for centuries.

    Because of this, the author supposes, it’s the whole reason we’ve had power over you, ladies! It’s because we’re driven mad by your sexiness! Rarr!

    Excuse me?

    It’s our fault you’ve kept us chained down by power relationships, allowed years of religious doctrine and societal values keep us penned in? Because of our inherent sexiness? HA! It’s one of the greatest tricks of power, I’ve found, to blame it on the powerless, that it is needed to keep things in line. Men have dictated power over women because men have enjoyed it. This is the crux of it. Power is an intoxicating thing and it has been built so thoroughly into our culture that men do not even have to recognize that it is there. It wants to go unchallenged because that’s how it’s always been. Men have created laws and social structures because it’s good being on top. It isn’t because women are some superior gender (as the author claims) and men are protecting us from them, or keeping us safe. It’s that they cannot bear the idea of us being on equal footing. Men have put themselves in the power position because it’s what introduces the most control over their culture. Making a point that men have done this because of their desire for us misses the point entirely; power is far more seductive than any gender could be. Don’t mistake this. Accept your place in society, men, for what it is. It is that you are on top.

    But hey, you feminists have done some good stuff with this, right? Of course you have! We’re SO acutely aware of sexism in video games now. Yay! Sexism is totally unearthed! We can dust it off and put it in a museum now that we know what it is! Right? Right? 

    No. Sexism is still so embedded in our popular media that every time a new gaming title comes out, I scan the box art and relevant articles in the blog community to see what’s wrong with it, because I’m never surprised when it features women in the ass-and-titties pose. Face it, sexism and how we portray women is still largely unquestioned. I know this because every time it gets brought up, a huge fight in comments usually breaks out.

    It’s okay though, ladies, Gordon is here to explain WHY sexism occurs, too! Do go on, I’m all ears over here.

    First off, the point is reiterated that it’s not about power, it’s that men are sex-obsessed apes. Now, this is stuff I don’t understand. Why are men usually okay with society constantly painting them in a negative light? I think it is because they don’t want the responsibility of their choices. This is all well and good, but as someone who hasn’t been allowed choices or responsibility herself, this is gross. Why don’t men want to be seen as human beings?  It is because it makes it easier to not have to think about the shitty things they do. It exerts control over women and their sexuality, and it allows men an easy “out” for what they do. An alibi, if it were. Not criticizing this process is why we have a lot of problems in our culture. (But still, this is a function of power, make no mistake about that.)

    Secondly, he says that sexism occurs because it is what they think women want. Ha ha! Are you kidding me? Gamer culture is always sold as an entirely straight, white male product. It is always ever seen as a commodity for and by straight white dudes. Don’t even come around here with this “we make this because it is what we think women want.” Look, Gordon. I’m sure you meant well. But video games are not made with women in mind or as a consideration. They always made with what men want. Male characters are male power fantasies and women characters are there with an implicitly straight male audience in mind. (This is also known as “male gaze“.) Historically the only people considered to be nerds or geeks in general were men, they still are largely considered the demographic unless something is especially demarcated “for women.” That is how othered we are by media; that everything is not created for us unless it’s distinctly shoved in our faces as such, usually involving horses, or pink, or some other thing that a male-dominated gaming industry believes we want. It is not, however, a scantily clad demon hunter from Diablo III, as hard as you want to make that argument. Granted, do I enjoy seeing women in a sexual way? Yes. I’m a queer woman, but I don’t even come close to pretending that most of the sexualized images of women I see in video games are for me or things I really want. (First off, despite liking women sexually, I do however have a sense of critical awareness and taste, unlike the men you describe in your article.)

    Thirdly, apparently women are sexualized in video games or treated in a sexist way because –drumroll please– they need feminine traits to balance out all the masculine ones! That’s right, ladies, apparently fighting or wearing armor isn’t a womanly thing to do. Being sexual is! Femininity is sexiness, and shooting guns or serving in an army isn’t. Not to speak of that frequently we’ve not been allowed to because of men and their stupid rules, but because it’s just not what we do! So we need to sexify women characters in video games up because anything else isn’t THAT feminine and men need to believe we are still women (and therefore, still able to be lusted after) even with donning armor or using a weapon or doing anything other than pouting our lips or baking something.

    The article ends on the thoughtful “of course equality isn’t about just wearing …sensible cloths [sic] but also, like, freedom and respect and social status and stuff.” (I might have paraphrased that a touch.) But since Gordon considers himself a sex-obsessed ape male, he doesn’t know honestly if this means big tits and sexy video game characters fit in with this intense paradigm shift. If you couldn’t manage it by virtue of your brain, then why did you even bother tackling sexism? Oh right, I forgot, it is because men always have the need and the right to express their opinions about things they haven’t really felt the sting of or haven’t sat down and properly thought about.

    Sexism in video games is a problem, make no mistake about that. But it is due to the power that men have, or are believed to have in both the industry and the consumer market. It is a lily-white, blanketing idea that the only people buying video games are straight white men. It is who they are created for and they will cop the same problems we have with viewing women and creating women characters that are in every other creative industry. Until we rise up and recognize this across the board and do things to make the gaming world more comfortable for women to a) be employed b) participate in c) be catered to, then we will not see a death of sexism any time soon. If we don’t recognize why it happens, why it occurs and stop shitting up blog articles and comments and Reddit with this tripe about what uninformed men think about sexism, then it won’t be going away. Before you open your mouth to talk about things, men, why don’t you ask some women about sexism in video gaming?

    You might find the answers surprising.

    Hint: It definitely has something to do with not addressing us as “females.”

     


  6. How To Talk to Women and Not Be Creepy

    March 20, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    This originally was posted to my Tumblr. I’ve made slight edits for clarity or grammar where neccessary. I’ve decided to start this as my first post on the blog in dedication to International Anti-Street Harassment Week (March 18th-24th, 2012). – ed.

    I was talking on Twitter about how I was approached tonight when standing with my friend at a bus-stop downtown by a creepy guy. A male acquaintance asked me how he was being creepy, outside of “unreciprocated flirting”, with genuine curiousity. This is the difference between myself and men – I don’t need to explain how someone is creepy to other women. They just know. They know that when I say creepy, I don’t need to spell out what that means. Saying that I’m creeped out is enough, you know?

    So guys, I’m going to do you a solid and lay down some education.

    You don’t realize it but situations you put yourself forth in to a woman can come off really creepy and even scary. You don’t realize this because a woman has to always guess a guy’s motivations if she has no idea who he is and he’s just coming out of nowhere to talk to her. We don’t have the luxury of assuming that he’s harmless. What seems nice to you can be rude, creepy, or even terrifying to someone. This is good advice for anyone, but statistically speaking, women have a lot more problems dealing with this kind of behaviour and I’m also a woman so this is speaking from personal experience. Creepiness in guys makes me go from neutral to “should I be running away right now” mode.

    Now, I’m sure you know a lot of women who aren’t scared of men. How scared a woman is of a random man talking to her is not your business, ever. If she is scared of every guy, that’s her choice. Get over it.

    1.) Pick a good place.

    This means in a situation where socializing usually occurs is a safe bet. People go to places to socialize and be around other people and generally are more pleasant and less threatened by your presence. Bars! Mixers! Coffee houses! Parties! Areas of group activities or events like concerts or sporting matches! These are great places to talk to people.

    Places that you find people to be solitary, lost in thought or generally quiet on the lower end of “good.” Museums, libraries and such are examples of these.

    Places that you are forced to be out of sheer necessity (especially alone) are not ideal, if downright terrible places to approach women randomly. People don’t like you intruding on a place they HAVE to be or NEED to be at because there’s no way to leave or else they have to stop what they need to be doing to avoid you if they feel uncomfortable. Workplaces that are front-facing (interacting with customers or clientele), bus stops, grocery stores, etc. These are bad because not only is a woman usually alone but there’s nothing that predicates a social interaction AT all. Talking to someone or coming up to them and forcing a non-standard interaction with someone working (unlike asking for help or for product information) or breaking them out of a standard errand or routine is not only rude but can be very off-putting or scary. It says you don’t understand social rules very well or their business being there.

    Approaching when she’s all alone somewhere, especially somewhere remote (like a parking garage or sidewalk on an empty street) is a really, really bad idea.

    2.) Pick a good time.

    If a woman is talking with a friend, try to be polite and don’t interrupt her conversation. That’s just good manners, but this goes moreso when she’s in a non-social place (bars and whatnot are hard to NOT interrupt someone talking, or even hear them talking in the first place).

    Time of day is also important. Night-time and not in a social place? I know for me my hackles are raised a lot more. Daytime usually has a lot more people around, alert. It feels safer (which is not necessarily true for everyone) but night time preys on a lot more fears than not in most people. Places are more deserted, things are harder to see. Do the math.

    3.) Watch her body language…

    Don’t be an idiot and assume that just because she’s not telling you to away and splashing her drink into your face that you’re allowed to stick around and talk. Is she smiling genuinely? Is she not making eye contract with you? Body posture, tone and other non-verbal communication is pretty important. She might even give you her name or phone number (sometimes fake, sometimes not) just to get you to leave.

    4.) …and what she says! 

    If she has some excuse to bail, if she asks you to leave, or isn’t really talking to you extensively, just cut your losses and stop talking to her. Especially if she asks you politely to go. Even if she doesn’t ask you politely, leave her alone.

    5.) Have a conversation.

    Assuming you’re keeping said rules above in mind, know that leading off with asking for her number, intimating that you’d like to do something sexual or flirty or you like how she looks without any provocation is kinda creepy and weird. It says to the woman that you don’t really care about how she might feel about that, that your motivations are probably not innocent, pure or even safe. Presenting your thoughts so bluntly and up-front, in an unvarnished way, is demeaning and even a bit predatory.

    DO NOT EVER WHISTLE, CAT-CALL, USE A PET NAME OR SHOUT AT A WOMAN FROM A CAR, STREET CORNER, PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT. THIS IS HARASSMENT. DO NOT USE SLURS IF YOU DON’T GET A POSITIVE RESPONSE.

    6.) Don’t touch her or get up in her space.

    Everyone has different levels of comfort when it comes to touching and personal space invading. Anything more than a handshake (unless she’s already giving off signals that she’d rather stick her hand in a blender) or a shoulder tap is over the line. Being closer than a foot or so, especially if you’re in violation of one of the rules above is no-no. The closer a guy gets to me, the more I become alert and ready to bolt. A lot of men are more physically imposing and you don’t even realize it – sometimes you are taller, sometimes you look scary or have more body mass than us. Sometimes you just smell really bad.

    7.) Being drunk or high makes you forget said points above. 

    If your good judgement goes out the window when you’re drunk or high, maybe skip approaching people regularly. Especially if you get angry easily.

    8.) Enthusiasm is awesome!

    A woman who appears genuinely enthusiastic or welcoming that you are talking is easier to spot than guessing (and guessing wrong). It means she appreciates and welcomes your presence.

    9.) Rethink how you view a woman in general.

    Realize that some of the reasons I had point out said points above are because a woman is not there and does not exist to be asked out, give you her phone number, or need to hear her opinions on how she looks. You are not entitled to these things. You will not die if you don’t get to do these things. Respect a woman’s right (hell,everyone’s right) to privacy, personal space, and mental peace when out and about.

    10.) Don’t tell a woman you don’t know to “smile.”

    I’m not here to look happy all the time, fuck off.

    Now, I know that some of this is hard and some of you are probably angry that it all sounds so complicated and “does this mean I can’t talk to women EVER? GOD!”

    If you can logically work out things in a contextual manner and judge situations for yourself, this should be a piece of cake for you. If someone thinks you are creepy, guess what, deal with it. If being even a tiny bit mindful of what you do is really too hard, then yes, don’t talk to women ever. Please. We thank you in advance.