Posts Tagged: sexism

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I find this interview frustrating for many reasons. Chief among them, though, is that Huckabee says, “I’m telling you, people who are in poverty, and who get government assistance, they wish they didn’t - ” and Stewart cuts him off to say, “Of course, of course, of course.” They both assume getting government assistance is something of which recipients should be embarrassed.

Here’s the problem with that: Guess what, Stewart and Huckabee? The both of you receive government assistance. Mortgage interest tax deduction? That’s the government giving you money. Child tax deduction? Government handout. Not taxing the money in various retirement accounts? Government handout. Business expense deduction? Government handout. Charitable deduction? Government handout. 

In each and every single one of those cases, Congress has decided to give you money. And yet I rather doubt either of you would be embarrassed to claim a child tax deduction. No one thinks it’s a problem for anyone to get money from the government because they own a home and a pay a mortgage. Yet those are both forms of public assistance.

When public assistance goes to home-owners, no problem. But when public assistance goes to a figure we have constructed as a nonwhite single mother, a woman who seemingly cannot get a job nor can she get a man, we have problematized public assistance. Now it is something of which she ought to be ashamed. We pathologize public assistance not because of what it is - government payments - but because of whom those payments assist. 

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Because I just finished it, and man oh man, I kind of want to run around screaming about it for awhile, but since that’s socially unacceptable, I’m doing the next best thing: yelling about it on the internet.

To be fair to Rosin, the title of her book is somewhat sensationalized. She’s not really arguing that men are ending. If I were titling her book for, say, an academic journal, it would probably be more accurately titled: “The Inevitable Changing of White, Childless, Single, Highly-Educated, Affluent, Heteronormative 18-35 Year Old Women’s Gender Roles, Obligations, and Identity.” 

Which is to say, she completely leaves out 1) poor nonwhite men “ended’ a long time with hyper-incaraceration, 2) poor women definitely do not have the kind of power she imagines, and 3) women with children or without advanced degrees are likewise left out. But even if you focus her argument just in the milieu she’s talking about, it *still* fails.

This reminds me a little of how when Obama was elected POTUS or affirmative action policies were put in place plenty of white people were all, “Alrighty then, racism over!” I worry that misleading saying we’re at the “end of men” will lead folks to do the same with sexism. 

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Note: trigger warning.

When people talk about your first year of law school, they talk about harsh profs. They talk about too much reading and the socratic method and exams and the curve and stress and caffeine and writing competitions and they talk about it all being really, really difficult.

They don’t talk about the week and a half of your criminal law class where you will discuss rape.

Somehow, in all those discussions about 1L, no one ever mentioned to me, nor did it occur to me, that there would be a period during my second semester of law school where I would walk into ever class feeling anxious and worried, afraid that someone would yell, that someone would cry, and that I would be either or both of those someones. 

I was lucky enough to have a wonderful professor (a young black woman with a background in anthropology) who handled the subject with as much grace as is possible, which is to say, not much. We got through the unit, and I can competently explain to you that generally the three elements of rape, legally speaking, are force, nonconsent, and sex. And yes, force is its own element, and in many states, the force “incidental to penetration” does not count as force. I can talk to you about the negligence mens rea as opposed to the knowledge mens rea with respect to nonconsent. I learned the law, and i found the law extremely problematic. 

But I also learned something else, something about our cultural conceptualization of rape, and that is much, much more problematic.

As we began the rape unit, we started talking about a pretty typical rape case. For purposes of this post, it’s enough for you to know the case involved two college students who had made out before. This particular time, they were making out in the man’s dorm room, things got a little rough, the woman said, “No,” but the man allegedly thought she didn’t mean it. Man thought she consented. Woman didn’t consent. 

As we discussed the case, our prof turned to a normative question: never mind what the law is in this particular jurisdiction - should we criminalize this kind of conduct? 

There was an awkward pause. Where he had been comfortably answering questions about the law as applied in this case, the man on call seemed unwilling to answer that question. Our prof just waited. Finally, he answered, “I don’t know. She was hurt by it, I guess, but, you know, you’d be criminalizing an awful lot of, uh, conduct, if you criminalized this kind of thing.”

As I listened to him speak, I wondered my ears, which felt red hot, were actually steaming.  Doesn’t the fact that thousands if not millions of people are hurting other people mean that we need to act decisively to prevent further, devastating harm? How could someone possibly be comfortable with less action? 

My prof considered this for a moment. I debated raising my hand, but waited, not entirely sure I would be able to speak coherently, lest I be branded just an emotional girl. When my prof spoke, it was careful, measured, “Hmm. Interesting. Arguably, because this conduct causes harm, as you say, it is problematic, yes? And if it is problematic, then its extremely high occurrence speaks to the need for higher levels of criminalization rather than less.” 

Right.

That exchange, though, kept my mind boilling. Because my fellow classmate viewed rape as so extraordinarily common, he thought it was not something the justice system should interfere with. Rape is just one of those things that happen. A miscommunication. Part of our culture. Boys will be boys.

This understanding of rape, of something that happens all the time every where but isn’t really that big of deal, permeates our culture, and leads to the absolutely horrible disaster that has been a comedian’s gang rape joke about a young woman in his audience (he apologized but not really). I understand that women are generally expected to just relax and take the jokes. To lighten up. To calm down. Because rape happens all the time. It’s not a big deal. And yes, I agree, you can make fun of horrible things. Sometimes, humor is our way of dealing with pain. But the there is a difference between humor to deal with pain and using “humor” as a weapon with which to wield your privilege over someone who has annoyed you.

Rape happens all the time. It is a big deal. It causes unbelievable, irrevocable pain. 

And it is not funny.

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Guess What?

Turns out Florida’s Stand Your Ground doesn’t work so well when you’re a black woman trying to defend yourself against your abusive husband, even if you actually don’t harm him at all (nor do you intend to).

This is why although I absolutely think SYG laws are bad policy, I didn’t want the conversation in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing to be about SYG laws. Because the thing is, it wouldn’t matter what the law was. George Zimmerman was not prosecuted because he shot a black male teenager. Period.

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Hey, WSJ, these would all be good ways for men to follow to get ahead, too, right? Why is this list only for women?

Answer: Because we assume men will work hard, do work no one else wants to do, and learn to play golf. Or at least we assume they know that if they want to succeed in this particular business-sphere, that’s what they need to do. Evidently WSJ thinks ladies can’t figure that out.

So look, listen up, WSJ. You seem confused as to why women aren’t getting ahead. Well, spoiler alert: it’s sort of tricky to get ahead when the entire system of promotion and business-success is designed to keep women out. 

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You know, pre-law school, I figured the law re: rape was that if someone said no and you continued, that was rape. Turns out that’s not true! You need nonconsent, yes, and sex, obviously, but you also need “force.”

Now, I’d have thought that in the absence of consent force is required to get someone to do something. But huh, turns out that the “force incidental to sex” does not count as “force.” (Though jurisdictions vary, obviously.)

Seriously.

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Brief preface: I am generally opposed to navel-gazing, but you know what, this has been bugging me all week, I hopefully turn it outward a bit as well, and this is, after all, my blog. So, I am taking some time out from this exciting Saturday night spent knee deep in law school outlines to, uh, talk about this blog.

Last week, something sort of odd happened. I posted a link about the hypocritical views America tends to have of motherhood, and it exploded, with 4,480 notes as of this writing. These views on motherhood are, like everything else in our society, infused with racism, classism, and sexism. We value motherhood when it is occupied by white, more affluent women, but we do not when it is occupied by poor women of color.

I did not think this was a shocking observation. I thought about it like this: I sleep every day (or night, as the case may be). It is not news that I sleep every day. Everyone sleeps every night (give or take). Because it’s not news, I don’t really talk about it much. Similarly, it is blindingly obvious that racism, classism, and sexism (among other prejudices) permeate every part of American (and arguably global) life as privileged cling to power and a grapple with a fundamental fear, dislike, and distrust of an evidently insoluble “Otherness.” Because it is blindingly obvious, i don’t often point it out. I think that me saying every day, “Hey! Here’s how I was affected by sexism today!” would be sort of boring, not particularly helpful, and not exactly noteworthy.

Sometimes, though, these prejudices become overwhelmingly salient in our national conversation, and I am reminded of the blindness of privilege, i.e. that those who have privilege are blind to the insult and injury they impose on those who do not. 

That’s how I felt during this whole Ann Romney-never-worked-a-day-in-her-life clusterfuck. As is per usual in politics, but is nevertheless frustrating, I felt horribly disgusted by and so alienated from this discussion around women, wealth, and race. 

So when I posted that, I kind of just meant, “Hey, here’s this thing that seems completely clear and without which you cannot begin to talk about sexism in America but which seems to be missing from a good 80 percent of our national conversation. So frustrating!” 

I am sure many people read it as such. From some of the reblogs, however, I also saw people flip out on me with intensity I have not seen since I accidentally pissed off a Harry/Hermione shipper back when I worked for a Harry Potter fansite.  But whatever, it’s the internet, and frankly the Harry/Hermione shippers were meaner. Far more unnerving was the vitriol folks threw at people dealing with poverty, particularly poor people of color. I suppose it was naive of me not to expect that, but I basically figure this blog reaches friends, an occasional oh-that-post-was-interesting follower, and maybe an employer googling me before I am (hopefully) hired. I never expected it to reach “the internet” en masse. Nor did I expect to be used as in a political war. I didn’t tag the post politics, because I didn’t see how it had much to do with politics. Sure, this conversation was sparked by an inane comment by a CNN Democratic pundit and involved the GOP nominee’s wife, but my point is not unique to one party or the other. Almost everyone views women of color in this way, stretching across ages, class, gender identity, and, I would argue, race. I got sort of annoyed when people reblogged that post with lines like, “Yeah, fuck Romney.” My point was not about Romney, or Hillary Rosen, or any other operative. My point was about us. About Americans. About our agreed opinion about poor nonwhite mothers and rich white mothers. And about how that opinion is hypocritical, disrespectful, patronizing, controlling, and lacking a level of human decency every person is entitled to expect from our fellows. 

I have two options: I can point out that opinion or I can be silent. Even though I am certain that thanks to confirmation bias nothing I say will change anything, and even though I am well-aware that sexism, racism, and classism are not news, sometimes, I get tired of saying silent. 

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You're not helping, Hillary Rosen

I know this whole kerfluffle happend a few days ago and the news cycle has totally moved on, but I’ve just figured something about why this bugs me. 

In case you haven’t heard, Hillary Rosen, a democratic pundit/analyst lady who works for the DNC and CNN (not the Obama Administration and not the Obama Campaign) said that Ann Romney had never worked a day in her life. Rosen was actually trying to make a class point - that the Romneys have a ton of money and they have no idea about actual American problems - but whatever, it was a dumb thing to say. Ann Romney was a mother of five and obviously worked very hard, I am sure.

This comment prompted pretty much every Democrat in the Obama Administration to rush to defense of Ann Romney and stay-at-home moms in general. Now, my mom stayed at home, starting when I was about 6, and she worked part-time before that. My mom is one of the smartest, bravest people I have ever met. And of course raising children is extremely difficult.

That said, this rush to say staying at home is just as valuable as going to work bugged me. And I couldn’t figure out why - because of course staying at home is as valuable as going to work. But I think my problem is this: When we say staying at home is just as valuable as going to work, the second, unsaid half of that sentence is: therefore we need not worry that more women than men stay home and we end up with men running the government and business. Because staying home is the same as going to work.

So I wish instead of just saying, “Staying home is just as valuable as going to work, if not more so,” people had said, “Staying at home with kids is just as valuable as going to work, but it is really important for women to have the choice, and women do not have the same practical opportunities as men to advance their careers . Men by and large hold the most powerful positions in the country, in government and business, and that’s very problematic.”

Chat
  • 8 year old sister: Lizzie, does Father Quan live in the church?
  • Me: No, he lives in the rectory. It's the building there.
  • Sister: That's not very big.
  • Me: Well, it's only the two priests.
  • Sister: But where do their wives and children live?
  • Me: Oh, well, priests are considered married to the church. So they aren't allowed to get married.
  • Sister: WHAT?
  • Me: Yep.
  • Sister: When I'm a priest, I'm going to change it.
  • Me: Ah, actually, honey, well, only boys are allowed to be priests.
  • Sister: WHAT?
  • Me: Yeah.
  • Sister: WHY?
  • Me: I'm not sure.
  • Sister: That is SO UNFAIR.
  • Me: Yep.
  • Sister: Fine. Then when I grow up I am going to be the Martin Luther King Jr. for girls so there's nothing girls can't do because otherwise it's not fair.