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Posts Tagged ‘male privilege’

this article really doesn’t say much about most of the issues we are concerned with here on GA, but this one paragraph is revealing. what i like about alternet is that it at least bothers to insert some feminist analysis into the news.

While the bill doesn’t come close to fulfilling the promise of the sort of universal, single-payer coverage favored by progressives, it will, according to the Congressional Budget Office, create access to health insurance to 32 million currently uninsured Americans. But the victory came at the expense of a further erosion of women’s reproductive rights, even as it proscribed discrimination against women in premium costs and gender-specific pre-existing conditions.

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This is part of an essay that I wrote for my Domestic Violence class, that I’m a little proud of… This is a segment of it, I tried to put it in context, but I think it’s still pretty accessible. Let me know if you want to read the rest or need more explanation, I apologize for the dense Irene-is-writing-a-paper mode. I’ve been thinking about the battle between masculinity and femininity a lot lately, and I think this whole conflation of science with truth with masculinity is one of the main reasons femininity is so shit upon. This class has definitely made me appreciate my feminine side a whole lot more. Here goes:

Murray Straus conducted a survey in the early 1980s that was scientifically “objective” (it had a HUGE sample, quantitative research, etc.), measuring the rate of abuse in U.S. American families. It posed questions asking the recipient of the survey the frequency of certain acts of violence, for example “I slapped my partner” or “I forced my partner to have sex when they were unwilling” with the options “never” to “more than 20 times”. The survey was flawed in many ways, however, notably (a) that it did not include any qualitative research, (b) that it assumed that surveyees would answer questions such as the former honestly and with no inner conflict, (c) that it did not take into account whether the partner was acting violent in self-defense and (d) that it did not take into account the severity of violent acts when asking questions like “I punched my partner” (i.e. we do not know if that means the partner then took a step backwards, or the partner then fell backwards through a plate glass table requiring a trip to the emergency room). The survey concluded that “family violence” is as commonly directed from men to women as from women to men. Once the results were published to the news media, with phrases like “we should be worrying about battered husbands!”… thousands of battered women’s shelters lost funding.

The clout of science in our society is immense—in this way it is impossible for even supposedly “apolitical” research to not turn political. We saw how Murray Straus’ “apolitical” and “objective” research was ultimately a political tool to many who dismissed feminist work in domestic violence. I believe it is unreasonable to think that a person can publish any social science research as “fact” when even the “harder” sciences such as biology are being politicized for theories like evolution. Even if we assume that objectivity is possible within the lab, there is no predicting how subjectively and politically the study will be received outside the lab. Yllo points out that “The assumption that observation and data can be divorced from theory (and values), and that the natural and (even more problematic) the social world can be objectively studied, is at the core of the debate”. It is my opinion that the data you collect and how you collect it cannot be divorced from your politics and values. I believe objectivity is not possible; it is merely an ideal that bolsters the findings of men.

The problem is that our society ascribes value only to objectivity and quantitative research. Feminist research is slandered in the male-dominated science world by means of attaching the labels “subjective” and “political”. These subtle attacks on feminist research must be exposed for what they are—that is, misogyny. Only then, I think, will quantitative and qualitative research be able to live in harmony. I do believe that quantitative research has some value and can help to observe patterns. But I do not believe that it can bring infallible truth without reinforcement from qualitative research.

In my life, feminism has revealed much more for me about the nature of humanity than science has ever “objectively” put forth. However, the difference between the two, according to our mainstream society, is that science is “fact”, while feminism is “biased politics”. To me, science lacks the self-consciousness that feminism contends as essential to a good study. I think either (a) you acknowledge your politics and how they shape your research or (b) you pretend you don’t have politics and they shape your research anyway subconsciously. The issue, to me, is transparency. Scientists that moon over objectivity refuse to believe that their experience of the world could have shaped their research even slightly. And this is how domestic violence stays invisible.

The power of science in our society is in that it establishes truth. If science does not acknowledge domestic violence, then domestic violence does not exist. Domestic violence is a phenomenon that is impossible to observe in its entirety without qualitative research. Thus, the two research methodologies of quantitative and qualitative must come together to legitimize domestic violence to our society. The first step to getting rid of a problem is admitting that you have a problem. Our society is in denial, and it is not until a combination of forces brings visibility to domestic violence that our society will admit that domestic violence is a problem. Science can bring that visibility.

p.s. This is also me trying to start a conversation about domestic violence here, but not knowing where to begin.

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Sexist Lionso today i went on a walk. i was dressed in a long flowy patterned skirt, a black tank top, flip flops, a long necklace made of shells, two rings, and a bracelet, with my hair in a long braid. FYI my skin is brown and my hair is black and people say that i look “indian” whatever that means. im 5’4″. and i have a long-term boyfriend (which is relevant to this story) and i love him and he is super nice and devoted to me and he is a feminist and he is like one of the few men in the world im comfortable being around.

so on my way home from my walk, i was sweating up a storm because it was hot and humid outside. but i must have looked approachable despite my eclectic appearance, for this 40-something man comes up to me, 15 feet near my house (i hope he didn’t know that that was my house), and says, “hi, i saw you in tarrytown, and its nervous to talk to someone you dont know. and i just think you are really pretty, and you must be a nice person.”

at this point i was still flattered. i had seen this guy walking out of town as i walked into town. i dont remember if i smiled at him or just ignored him. i have this huge problem when i walk in populated places. i dont know where my eyes should go. first of all, im nearsighted, so its awkward to sqiunt at someone who might be someone i know. i dont remember though, if i had this problem since before i became nearsighted a few years ago. so i walk and walk, and there are plenty of people, walking around, or sitting around, or talking to each other. i dont know if it would be aggressive to look at them, and my natural impulse is to look at the ground a few feet ahead of me. it feels safer, since i dont know what people me to do with my eyes, atleast i wont have to watch them be awkward around my own awkwardness. but then, i feel like im being passive and submissive. so i try to look ahead of me at eye level, sometimes smiling at people with babies and pets, but usually not smiling because many people tend to look straight ahead of them and not smile back, and then i feel sheepish for having made the effort of smiling at them. also i worry, what if someone saw me smile at them and them not smiling back, and thought i was a fool?

damn, it sucks to be me? idk.

so i dont remember if this 40-something man, who has a mustache and beard, mostly black, peppered with some white, and misaligned teeth (not too bad, many people have misaligned teeth and they are not altogether unappealing to look at), maybe 5’7″, wearing a faded teal t-shirt and probably jeans and i think dark sneakers…was someone i smiled at the first time he saw me. probably i tried to look at him to send him the message that i wasnt afraid of him (even though i kinda was, im afraid of mainstream looking white people, as well as white men with a weird/cautious gait, which he had). but i tried and looked at the faces of many people i met, so that i wouldnt seem/feel scared of them.

so here i am, on my way back home, pretty much there already. the guy is walking towards me, as though he were on his own walk out of town and then was walking back into town. i looked at his face again and then diverted my eyes to look straight ahead in front of me as soon as i saw that he was nervously meeting my eye. do not want to get into a conversation with this stranger. he says, “hi, i saw you in tarrytown, and i just think you are really pretty, and you must be a nice person.” so i feel like he’s just being a nice person, like my friend alene, who says nice things like that randomly to people, and then is offended when theyre weirded out. i dont want to offend people who are random kind strangers. so i take off my headphones and i say, “oh thanks,” chuckling appreciatively. oh lord. i wish i hadnt. then he says, “if sometime, youre free, i would like to talk to you,” and im like oh shit i shouldnt have let my guard down, but im still optimistic that he means he wants to hang out as friends. im like maybe he just wants to meet someone to be friends with because maybe he is hopelessly depressed and suicidal and maybe a kind word from me would detract him (this reminds me of lucie’s stand-up comedy piece about a similar, though probably fictional situation). but theres a lot of weird tension and i think he is looking at my chest. so i go, “well that would be good, but i already kind of have a boyfriend, if that’s what you mean,” and he’s like “yeah, youre probably too young for me anyway,” and im like “yeah” (i wish really badly that i had said, “youre probably too old for me” dammit. i want to be more assertive and less “sure id totally fuck you, and ofc you can be on top obviously, if only it werent for my pesky boyfriend!” ew ew ew ew this is really grossing me out but thats how i feel, like i might as well have said that instead.)

and then he’s like “how old are you, twenties?” and im like “mhm,” cuz all this is happening too fast for me to formulate how im going to tell him to go fuck off, and he’s like “youre from india, right?” and im like “yeah” and he’s like “and your parents are from india?” and im like “yeah” and i feel really mad that i was so conciliatory and let him get away with asking me personal questions. he’s like “so are you religious in any way?” and im like “that’s a complicated question” and he’s like “yeah, i feel a real affinity with indian culture something blabla spiritual” and im like “mhm,” and he’s like “what’s your name” and this is what im most mad about, that i didnt say “ramona” which is my fake name for creepers who might be stalkers, and tell him what my real name is. and he goes “im jim” and he hands me his hand and i shake it and i ingratiatingly say “nice to meet you” because at this point the choice is between telling him off and potentially getting stalked/killed, or being nice to him and hoping he doesnt bother me anymore due to the nice impression i left on him, at least in my mind anyway. im afraid of this guy and i hope he lets me leave this conversation soon. and then he’s like “have a nice day” and im like “you have a nice day too and thanks for saying those nice things about me, im sure youre a nice person too” and then he walks off in the direction he came from. and im like did he walk all the way back from his walk towards the other direction, to say this to me???? so instead of walking straight to my house i kinda make a little detour and then walk to my house, looking behind me in case he wants to know where i live, and he’s not there so i go home.

well, fuck. was this guy a total creeper? ofc he embodies everything i hate about male-dominated rape culture, he intrudes into my life, probably because he feels (rightly) that i wont tell him to fuck off because im this passive indian woman who is wearing flowy south-asian inspired clothes and jewelry, and he thinks he has the right to comment on what i look like and what kind of person i must be (“a nice person”) and then he asks me out even though that is inappropriate because he is more than twice my age.

so how much should one be scared of a person like this? in general, im scared of most males, even if they dont do anything wrong to me, because i always feel like if things came to a certain climax, they would be mean to me and do something wrong to me. and this is not paranoia, because this is the pattern that has led to much of my alienation with males to begin with, even my little brother, who is not so little anymore. and plus so many of my female friends have to deal with patriarchal bullshit but feel like they cant say anything and then they continue to be kind, though maybe the slightest bit more distant, with these male friends who have hurt them. because women are taught to be graceful about being insulted or intruded upon or used or abused.

fuck this shit. i want to scream through a loudspeaker. i dont want to be graceful or elegant like i was with this man, sad and weird though he might have been. even someone so meek-looking and non-mainstream like him has the ability to make me worried about what he is going to do to me. not to mention his abhorrent rudeness and assumptions about my culture, life, family, religion, and personality. he thinks he has me figured out. he tricks me into shaking his hand. he leaves me unsettled about whether he knows where i live and whether he is going to follow me in the future or if he has already followed me to the point where we talked today. he tricks me into being nice to him when im actually afraid and want to back out of this conversation. im glad though that he turned around and left, instead of waiting for me to leave. though i dont think he understood to extent to which he had been making me uncomfortable. and even though he was somewhat courteous about it, nothing like “you have a hot body” or anything so overt as “i love indian women, they are so exotic, like you!”, everything he said amounts to the expression of a feeling of entitlement to talk to me, to know about me, to ask me out.

ew. im home safe and i took a shower. now im wearing men’s clothes. i feel better about this relatively small event. but i remain worried about the bigger implications of all this. and i worry that he lives in this town and i worry that my rejection made him feel bad and i worry that he may be suicidal and i worry that he will look up my name and follow me around and possibly kill me, like that man who killed the wesleyan student who had rejected his advances.

damn.

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First of all, hey everyone! I’m a new addition to the blog. 🙂 Aida, from Puerto Rico, rising junior at Brown, found this blog through Irene. Hopefully I’ll be contributing steadily. Anyway–I also wanted to let y’all know that I added two websites to the blogroll: Genderfork and Sociological Images. Now, for my first contribution–cross-posted from my personal blagh, found here.

In response to this (blog entry that just has an embedded video) and this:

The author here grosses me out.

That guy isn’t real. Somebody decided to make him up so they could write the “write fuck me on your chest and smile” line, claiming female = victim and that somehow, if only men would understand and be sensitive to this, it would be okay.

Most men aren’t anything like this guy, and for the rest of us the author has done nothing to improve our understanding of “what it’s like to be a woman.” If the author were listening, I’d respond: “Being a grownup means taking the fuck me sign off your chest and telling people ‘no’ or ‘piss off’ whenever necessary.”

Giving a reality check to a straw man, kind of annoying.

*

I see where the commenter is coming from, but I think it’s a *very* shallow reading of that clip. The message I got from this video/scene was different. Writing “fuck me” on his chest would be about drawing a parallel between the symbolic gesture and the reality of inhabiting a woman’s body–a body that is unfortunately read by some as “willing” just by virtue of being female. If the guy had actually gone out with the FUCK ME on his chest, it wouldn’t have been the same thing/feeling…but it wasn’t about him actually doing it. It was about showing the parallel between that and walking around with an INVISIBLE (yet oh so visible) marker of “oh yeah, sure, fuck me, that’s great, I really want it from you, thank you.”

A man walking naked with FUCK ME on his chest would be seen as abnormal, whereas a woman just walking around would not be. Violence against women is perpetrated because it’s, in a way, normalized. This is the narrative that we’ve been given; people assuming a naked man with FUCK ME scrawled on his chest wants and is ready for sex is not realistic, but people assuming a woman walking down the street wants and is ready for sex IS realistic. This whole scene is about the psychological impact; it’s about the female character trying to show this man how it feels by creating a “story” that APPROXIMATES that feeling. Taking that story to reality wouldn’t work, but THINKING about it and thinking about what it MEANS would certainly make an impact.

Woman is not inherently “victim,” but the truth is that in society, many times there is a strong correlation between the two. And if it’s not “victim,” it’s still the receiving end of violence, be it symbolic, physical, or both. And that being said…yeah–if only men could understand and be sensitive to the realities of living in a body marked as “female,” we would probably have less scenarios like this. A man would be way less likely to invade a woman’s privacy like what happened on The L Word if he understood how that shit felt. A man would be less likely to leer at a woman and think it’s okay to grab her ass if he understood how that felt. Obviously it would only be a start. Someone’s knowledge doesn’t predict what they will do with it.

But the thing is, there’s no real way to understand, FULLY understand, unless one has lived through it. Anything else is just an assumption, removed to a certain degree, or a sympathetic thought. No one can TRULY and wholly understand or “feel” what someone else is feeling. We have approximations, yes, and a “common language,” yes, but these are only approximations. Still, these approximations are valuable–very valuable. They’re the closest we have to the real thing, and they are important. And even if we can’t feel exactly what someone else has felt, there are probably huge overlaps, and we can sympathize and find solidarity.

Finally, the “…telling people ‘no’ or ‘piss off’ whenever necessary” comment? Telling people “no” or to “piss off” when necessary is a right (and sort of one’s duty to a certain extent), but to have that right respected? A totally different ballgame. Women usually don’t have the privilege of not having to worry that their “no” may not be respected or even taken seriously. Saying “no” doesn’t necessitate or equal a respect of that “no.” Just because a woman screams NO and fights back, does that mean a rapist will stop raping her? Just because we say NO, does that mean a mugger will suddenly return all our money and leave us alone? Just because a NO is necessary doesn’t mean it will WORK. There are various situations when saying NO just isn’t enough.

And sure, most men aren’t like the guy in the video, who will set up cameras all over your house…but that’s not the point. Most men aren’t rapists, or murderers, or robbers–but we still have to talk about those that are, and represent them in the media, and show that they exist. We still have to show that women are hurt, not to normalize that violence, but to show the realities of the world and that they are NOT ACCEPTABLE. We have to put these things in the forefront so people cannot ignore them, so people have to acknowledge them and get educated and DO something about it. The fact that a (presumably) Average Joe (whatever that is) cannot relate at all to this clip and feels that it provides NO insight into how it feels to be a woman is VERY distressing to me.

Addendum: By this post, I don’t mean to say that ALL women are a certain way or feel a certain way. No monolithic understandings of men and women apply. Kthx.

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education

do we think that the american college education system is skewed in favor of men? im in the middle of finals at my all-women’s college, and the question just occurs to me. i think i read about it somewhere at some time in the very distant past. ideas?

edit: i found this boring article if anyone wants to read it

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