Friday, October 23, 2015

Gender Me This

There has been many an article, blog, news story, and discussion regarding the treatment and perception of women as seen through the lens of men. Just about any book or movie. GamerGate. Sexual assaults on college campuses. Fewer women in positions of power. Celebrity nude photos. Doxing. Less pay for women. Imposter Syndrome. Lean in. Many of these musings have a similar point: that women are defined by men. Having grown up in a culture where women are defined by men, women have been conditioned to believe and accept this definition. The current rise in discussions about women’s treatment in relation to men is due to women no longer buying into this paradigm.

All throughout history, and even today in parts of world, women were considered the property of men. This great historical weight is not easily moved or overcome. The fight for gender equality, largely beginning in the 1960’s is still, 50 years later, in its early stages. As a society and culture we are shining a light into the dark corners of masculinity, the alpha male, macho men – the male perspective that has worked tirelessly promoting their own agenda to the determent of women. Shining this light to expose the narcissism and selfishness of men.

Almost all TV shows, movies, books, our entire culture! All of these place women into a certain light, paint women into a certain corner, defined by men. Over the decades in film and TV, who has created and controlled the image of women? Women's bodies have always been used in advertising to attract, peddle, and sell. Does a woman feel sexy based on what she thinks is sexy? Or what men think is sexy? Is a woman's behavior based on what she wants? Or is it a male ideal, a template, bombarding her since her earliest memories?

As you read the following quote consider that men have defined the reality in which women live.

"Think for yourself. Question authority. Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities, the political, the religious, the educational authorities who attempted to comfort us by giving us order, rules, regulations, informing, forming in our minds their view of reality. To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable, open-mindedness; chaotic, confused, vulnerability to inform yourself. Think for yourself. Question authority."

"Forming in our minds their view of reality." In our culture and society as girls grow into women what has formed in their minds is men's view of reality. Question what has formed in your mind, and determine if that is indeed your true self.

And now a related tangent. Just for funsies. I want to talk about these things.

The first season of True Detective written by author Nic Pizzolatto. Do men hate women? Or do men hate themselves and feel better about themselves by mistreating women? It comes down to ego and status, power and control. I AM A MAN, DAMMIT!! In the first season of True Detective there is a decades long sexual subjection and serial murders of women and children. One man so emotionally neutered that he forgoes close relationships. A second man so caught up in the bravado of masculinity that he ignores his wife and daughters and commits multiple infidelities. The TV show received heavy criticism for treating women poorly, with stereotypically weak-women or women-in-peril characters, and generally being anti-feminist.

Female characters are indeed marginalized, the focus of the show being two men compartmentalized by their own machoism, who end up with only each other. True Detective, season one perpetuates the old school paradigm of women existing at best as accessories to men, and at worst to be used by men, often brutally, and then discarded. It is a male-centric story, which is fine, but it fails to include real-life female characters. It fails to treat any women in the story with respect. Is this laziness? Or is this simply another cookie-cutter, traditional crime story about men being men, and women defined by those men?

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo novels by Stieg Larsson. Adapted into three Swedish movies, and one Hollywood version. The original title was The Men Who Hate Women, a searing indication of the theme. There is another decades long sexual subjection and serial murders of women. Forced prostitution. A cabal of men in government who ignore the abuse of a woman, and who lead the charge in the abuse of her daughter. The lead male character, Mikael Blomkvist, while seemingly the most sympathetic towards women treats his romantic partners with indifference. Lisobeth Salander, the central character and heroin, stands in stark relief to the cookie-cutter women portrayed in popular culture.

Lisobeth has suffered her entire life at the hands of brutal and selfish men. As an adult she embraces and exudes her true identity, yet still the target of the sexual tyranny of men and their abuses. Stieg Larsson is not perpetuating the male-centric idea of female identify, he is crucifying it. Drawn and quartered with its entrails pulled out for all to see. The male view of female sexuality is not romanticized. The entitlement men believe they have over women results in at best indifference, and more likely in assault, rape and murder. Juxtaposed by the non-conforming image and behavior of Lisobeth who eventually triumphs over the selfish brutality of men.


"Think for yourself. Question authority."


Friday, October 9, 2015

Me and My Not White Privilege

"Power from unearned privilege can look like strength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate."
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack
by Peggy McIntosh

I am white. Thus by definition I must have white privilege. What is white privilege? This thing, this apparent power I never knew I had until someone who didn't like it told me I had it? White privilege is what racists give to white people while they are being racist to non-white people. Just as the victim of racism cannot control the racist, or the acts of racism, so the victim of white privilege cannot control the racist, or the acts of white privilege. Each is a byproduct of racism.

What am I to do about receiving white privilege from racists? Black people learn how to alter their behavior to avoid being targets of racism. In the past few years I have heard black parents relate stories of how they teach their children how to avoid confrontations with police. I know of a black man with a good job and great career who drove a very nice car but grew tired of being pulled over so he reverted to driving a not so nice car. My white privilege is I do not have to teach my children about how to avoid confrontations with police. My white privilege is I don't get pulled over as often. My white privilege is I do not arouse suspicions when I browse in a department store. My white privilege is I am less likely to serve prison time, I more likely to receive a better education, and I am more likely to find decent pay for a decent job. Is that really white privilege?

What am I to do about receiving white privilege from racists? The problem with racism is not black people, the problem is the racists. The problem with white privilege is not white people, the problem is the racists. Of course, in this example the racists are white. Racists can also be black, and in those situations is there a such a thing as black privilege? If I am a victim of racism at the hands of a black person then it stands to reason there are some who are victims of black privilege. Or brown privilege. Or yellow privilege. Or whatever privilege. Just as historically in culture and society men have held the power and so sexism by men is seen rightfully as the greater evil, historically in culture and society white people have held the power and so racism by white people is seen rightfully as the greater evil.

What is up with the "white privilege" movement? There are many who never witness racism and thus say racism is not a problem. Those combatting racism shout "white privilege" in an attempt to raise awareness among those who do not experience racism. "Look! You receive these benefits because of racism!!" I get it. Raising awareness. Accusing someone of white privilege just because they are white is racist in and of itself, and a white person simply receiving a benefit from a racist is not white privilege.

The term "white privilege" implies an expectation of favorable treatment based on the color of your skin. This is form of racism. They are two sides of the same coin, white privilege and overt racism. On the one side is how you treat others differently (worse) because they are not your race, and the other side is your expectation of being treated differently (better) by those the same race as you.