Why we don’t say X is the new Y

13 04 2009

Another 101 refresher: Some people are declaring that Fatism is the New Racism.  Huh?  Really?   Comparisons like these (X is the new Y: gay is the new black, fatism is the new racism) are incorrect and useless because:

– They falsely assume that X and Y are completely separate and mutually exclusive.

– They falsely assume that there is an objective benchmark or factor that determines what is relevant and significant and what isn’t.

– They falsely rank issues into a hierarchy in which the “most important” ones are supposed to be talked about first.

When people assert that “X is the new Y” they are implying that Y is outdated and no longer important.  So saying things like “gay is the new black” assumes that gay people cannot be black, and black people cannot be gay, that they are two mutually exclusive categories with none overlap whatsoever.  Saying “fatism is the new racism” assumes and suggests that racism is over (certainly not, even/especially right here at Tufts!), irrelevant, and no longer “important” enough to talk about.  It assumes that fatism is the most important form of oppression.  It ignores the fact that all forms of oppression are intersectional and they function in conjunction to maintain the status quo. You cannot give a thorough analysis of a certain type of oppression without considering and mentioning other forms of oppression.  Fatism and racism are indeed two kinds of oppression that manifest differently , but saying that fatism is the new racism eclipses the existence of people of color who experience both fatism and racism.

So when talking about various forms of oppression, it is ignorant to say that X is the new Y.  X and Y are powerful and institutionalized because they feed into and feed off of each other.  They reinforce and perpetuate each other.  Therefore, X cannot disappear unless Y disappears, so there can be no “new Y” unless all forms of oppression have been eradicated.

How is this supposed to make me want to buy a condom?

13 04 2009

Hansaplast condoms has a new marketing campaign in France:



Apart from having absolutely nothing to do with condoms, these advertisements reinforce the objectification of female bodies and further normalize sexual violence. The women in the advertisements are looking at the hand prints on them in a confused and annoyed way because they did not consent to being groped. You can also tell that they are clearly not too thrilled about this.

What exactly is the story line here? The women were sleeping out in the sun and then groped, and possibly even raped? The tan lines on these women’s bodies seem to suggest that they were more than just groped. They make it look like there was someone who was on top of or behind the women. The tan lines and the facial expressions on the women’s faces all imply that whatever occurred, whether it was consensual or non-consensual (and therefore sexual assault or rape), women are the passive receivers, the inferior ones, in which something is done to them instead of being equal participants in sexual activity.

Whatever the heck these images are supposed to mean, they reflect the patriarchal sense of entitlement to female bodies and female sexuality. In a patriarchal society, women cannot fully occupy public spaces. Public spaces can be hostile spaces where women cannot navigate as safely or freely. They are kept in line by sexual harassment (ranging from catcalling to groping), sexual assault and rape.

This reminds me of a conversation I was having with a friend lately about how at frat parties, sometimes men (strangers too) feel entitled to just come up to women and put their arms around them, or to just start grinding up behind them. Not only do we find this uncomfortable but we find it intrusive as well. Male privilege and the constant objectification of women make it seem like female bodies do not belong to females but rather are public property and up for grabs.

Just another reason that Sarah Palin is NOT a feminist

13 04 2009

Let’s hark back to the lovely Sunday Stupidity post this week and the ridiculous idea that some people have about Sarah Palin being a feminist.  Now, It’s cool for feminists to have differing opinions (differing opinions can make feminist debates interesting), but Palin is most certainly not simply a feminist with a different opinion.  And here’s another reason why she is definitely NOT a feminist.  We can add this to the list right next to charging rape victims for evidence collection kits, censoring her family members, her anti-choice political stance (even in cases of rape and incest), the abstinence-only sex education bullshit, and so much more.

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#Amazonfail. Who did it and what does it mean?

13 04 2009

I’m sure most of you have heard about #Amazonfail. You can click for views from Twitterers here, Livejournal, Feministing, and Sexerati all have addressed this. You could just do a quick Google search and find a crap ton of information. In short, Amazon has removed all LGBT-friendly books from the general searches and sales rankings because it’s “Adult” material. What makes it ludicrous is that there are actually books with EXPLICIT heterosexual scenes left untouched, while innocent nonsexual books with homosexual main characters affected. So what do we have left? THIS bullshit book: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. I spent maybe an hour reading about this whole anti-LGBT movement, which encourages the “prevention” and “cure” of homosexuality. They’re pretty bad and based on fear and stereotypes, but that’s another blogpost.

ANYWAY I may or may not still have a livejournal (cough) and I came across this post here. Seems like a troll is taking responsibility for the whole Amazon thing. I’ve also heard that other people are trying to get credit. DO NOT BELIEVE THIS. Keep on sending your e-mails to Amazon about how upset you are and will not buy from them until they fix this. Here is just one post on LJ debunking the troll here.

Apparently this Amazon problem has been around for months, but just recently caught spread like wildfire. Amazon has been very noticeably quiet. All that I’ve seen is a few “inside sources” talking to popular bloggers. A few sources are saying that it is NOT a glitch but that someone or someones have been doing this. Feministing’s source says this, but it seems like everything is up in the air because there is no official statement.

It seems that this was a conscious effort by SOMEBODY. Sexerati says a coder internally labeled all of these as “adult.” It is quite sad that Amazon has failed to recitfy this deranking problem, but I’m pretty sure it will be reversed soon enough because now it is getting such mainstream attention. It seems that once again we are reminded that we are living in a world that still has a long way to go to achieve equality for all genders and orientations. It’s deplorable that it’s gotten this far, but it’s great to see that now with technology we CAN make a difference. The word spread quickly and I hope it is creating enough pressure on Amazon. I am amazed that someone is so bigoted that they would take the effort to derank ALL of those books and leave things like Playboy on the site. The gay rights movement is very necessary and while gay is not the new black, it is definitely a battle that needs to be fought. Having allies is more important than ever because companies like Amazon only care about money. We have to show them that this is unacceptable.

Another Reason to Love Obama

13 04 2009

April is Sexual Assault Awareness (and Prevention) Month, and President Obama has officially acknowledged and recognized it.  In his Proclamation on April 8th, he said (Bold emphasis mine):

Sexual assault scars the lives of millions in the United States. To increase awareness about this issue, prevent future crimes, and aid victims, this month we mark National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Sexual assault is pervasive in the United States. Study after study has shown that this crime impacts people at all age levels and in every part of this Nation. One recent study found that 18 percent of women in this country have been raped in their lifetime. In addition, rates of sexual assault remain startlingly high for students from high school to college. A 2005 survey of high school students found that 10.8 percent of girls and 4.2 percent of boys from grades nine to twelve were forced to have sexual intercourse at some time in their lives. A study of college women found that 13.7 percent of undergraduate women had been victims of at least one completed sexual assault since entering college. Unlike victims of sexual assault in the larger community, students victimized by other students often face additional challenges in a “closed” campus environment. For example, a victim may continue to live in danger if the perpetrator resides in the same dormitory or attends the same classes. These statistics are all the more alarming given that, according to recent research, a majority of victims do not report their attacks to police.

To make continued progress, my Administration supports efforts to help Americans better understand this issue. Working together, we can reduce the incidence of sexual assault and help all who have experienced this heinous crime. NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2009, as National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I urge all Americans to respond to sexual assault by creating policies at work and school, by engaging in discussions with family and friends, and by making the prevention of sexual assault a priority in their communities.

Thank you Obama!  It’s great to have a president who finally cares!  And now the Gender Blenders urge you all, like Obama does, to engage in discussions with family and friends about sexual violence and work together as a community to effectively address and prevent sexual violence.

Another 101 Fact: There is no such thing as reverse sexism

13 04 2009

Something that I often get asked is “aren’t feminists just being reversely sexist?” or “isn’t feminism just reverse sexism?”  No, and no.  There is no such thing as reverse sexism.  First of all, let’s establish a working definition of sexism: Just like how racism = power + prejudice based on skin color, sexism = power + prejudice based on gender.  When talking about the various forms of oppression, many people often confuse prejudice with the ism.  From Failure to Communicate:

That “+ power” portion of the equation is one of the most important parts.  This is not to say that the disenfranchised cannot be prejudiced, because many of them are, but without power, they are not actually working within the systematic framework of advantage created by the majority to privilege themselves.

Therefore, a person who does not exist with the necessary institutionalized power and privilege of belonging to a dominant in-group, cannot be racist, sexist, ableist, etc.  Women can certainly be prejudiced or discriminatory against men (which is not acceptable either) but they cannot be sexist or “reverse sexist” simply because they lack the institutional power to systematize their prejudice against men.

Men exist with male privilege, which is unearned privilege and institutional power granted to them just for being men.  Since maleness is only one aspect of a man’s identity and other factors such as race, class, sexual orientation, etc. also shape one’s identity, every man experiences his male privilege in a different way.  Despite these differences, male privilege is something that all men benefit from.  Male privilege is so normalized and embedded in society that it operates stealthily so that many men, and women, may not even be aware of it.  Alas has a male privilege checklist that includes things like:

– If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.

– The odds of my encountering sexual harassment on the job are so low as to be negligible.

– If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are so low as to be negligible.

– I am not taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces.

– If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.

– I can be somewhat sure that if I ask to see “the person in charge,” I will face a person of my own sex. The higher-up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be.

– I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will always include my sex. “All men are created equal,” mailman, chairman, freshman, he.

In response to this some people ask, “well, don’t women have female privilege?”  Again, no.  One woman anecdotally told me her story about how once she got pulled over for speeding, but when the police officer came over to talk to her, he chatted with her for a bit and then told her that he wouldn’t give her a ticket and wished her a nice day.   She said, “see at least I can get away with things like that.  I bet a guy wouldn’t be able to get off the hook for that.”

While this may on the surface appear like “female privilege” it is not.  Upon further examination, it just reinforces institutionalized sexism that prevents women and men from truly achieving equality.  This woman may well be right in saying that a man who was caught speeding by a male police officer would probably get a ticket.  However these practices still otherize women as a separate and unequal class, and it feeds into objectification of women where women are valued more for their appearance and their bodies instead of their brains or their achievements.

Also, people sometimes assume that just because there is “male privilege” there must be “female privilege” as well.  There is no such thing as “female privilege” because despite the advances made by the women’s movement, the playing field is still not level, and women still lack the institutional and systemic power that men benefit from.  Just open your eyes: Who writes most mainstream newspaper bylines?  Who are most of our elected officials?  Who are the top CEO’s or CFO’s of major corporations?  Men continue to occupy the upper echelons of power that still grant them institutional power and privilege as a group.  What is called “female privilege” is actually better known as benevolent sexism because sexist attitudes, behaviors and actions disguise themselves in ways that make women, and men, think that they are independent of institutionalized sexism when they really just maintain hegemonic patriarchal power structures.

While feminists do agree that the practices that are commonly ascribed to “female privilege” (such as women being the recipients of chivalric practices) are expressions of inequality, they disagree that such practices should be considered a form of institutionalized privilege. This is because being rewarded for not going against the status quo and being the recipient of institutional privilege are not the same thing. The system of privilege uses that kind of reward system in order to perpetuate itself, but the existence of a reward isn’t proof in of itself of privilege.

Calling “female privilege” “benevolent sexism” is more appropriate and accurate because it makes visible the aspect of sexism that drives it.  Saying “female privilege” obscures and makes invisible the fact that it is just another manifestation of sexism.

…When it’s called benevolent sexism it’s recognized to be tied to the system of sexism, and can therefore be fought (successfully) with tools like feminism, whereas when it’s called “female privilege” the solutions called for tend to call for strengthening the status quo, which ends up making it harder to end the offending practices.

People also ask me, “isn’t Women’s Studies sexist towards men?”  (Here we go again with the “But what about the men?!!”)  Women have been and still are a disenfranchised group in society.  Like other marginalized groups (people of color, the queer community, differently-abled people, etc.) we’ve had to fight for inclusion within society’s heterosexual, white, upper class, male-centric, oppressive institutions.  And in fighting for inclusion we are vilified as troublemakers and rabble-rousers.  How dare we even try to subvert the norm?!

And now that we’ve managed to effectively carve out some safe spaces where we can discuss issues relevant to us, challenge the dominant modes of knowledge production and transmission, share our stories and experiences with each other, organize and build community, we are falsely accused of being reversely sexist?  As if such a thing was even possible.  Simply by demanding to at least try and level the playing field, and demanding to move towards equality, we were cast as the oppressive bad guys.

Therefore, claiming that feminists, feminism and Women’s Studies are all practicing or embodying “reverse sexism” is a mere silencing technique to further legitimize the status quo and to further normalize patriarchal oppression in society.  It is a way to deny marginalized groups access to and membership in hegemonic institutions.  It is a way to deny them any contributions to the construction and perpetuation of dominant discourses and ideology in society.