Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Boys Gone Wild

...doesn't exist.

Unless, of course, it's boys not being able to handle rejection.

I already wrote briefly on my feelings about George Sodini, the murderer who opened fire on women in a gym. Here's another story about a young man who didn't like being told "no":

Daniel Floyd Williams, 18, has been charged with second-degree murder. After Bayshore [High School]'s football game Friday, Thompson and three other girls were in a car when Williams approached them, asked for sex, walked away, waved a gun and fired, hitting Thompson, deputies said.

It really upsets me that this is the world we live in, where women are killed because men think they're entitled to sex. Re-reading that, it seems too fantastical, like I just made that up. Women are killed because they reject men's sexual advances. And this is in the United States, a country that is supposedly eons ahead of -- for instance -- countries governed by fundamentalist Arabic ideals in women's rights.

I used to have the same neutral-at-best mentality that most women in the US seem to have toward feminism, the f-word. In an effort to not be lumped into a category of shrill, hairy, man-hating harpies, a lot of us remain willfully ignorant of the ways that we still truly are treated as the inferior gender, nearly a century after gaining the right to vote and decades after the second wave of feminists tried to fight the obvious oppression women experienced (see Mad Men for a pretty realistic portrayal.) In the past few years I've opened my eyes and realized that a lot of the discomfort, unfairness, and anger I felt in certain situations wasn't always just the result of general awkwardness or random hindrances -- a lot of my feelings were rooted in straight up, good old-fashioned sexism.

No one really claims that they are sexist, just like no one really claims that they are racist. But a lot of people fail to recognize sexism -- even really obvious examples -- and even worse, many people get defensive when sexism is pointed out to them. That's what's tricky about feminism. It's really easy for everyone to say, "Yes, absolutely I agree that men and women should be treated as equals in all aspects of life." It's not so easy for people to hear that something they say, do, or are involved in, is a little bit sexist. I think that's a big part of why people don't like feminists: they don't like being criticized. So feminists have to endure the criticism that they are too easily offended, humorless, and sexist against men.

If any part of this post confused or angered you, but you're still curious about what I'm trying to say, I highly encourage reading this post. It's a bit long, but I think that a lot of women can identify with something written in that article, even if they haven't previously identified as feminist.

There is ... the obdurate refusal to believe, to internalize, that my outrage is not manufactured and my injure not make-believe—an inflexible rejection of the possibility that my pain is authentic, in favor of the consolatory belief that I am angry because I'm a feminist (rather than the truth: that I'm a feminist because I'm angry).

Women -- when those guys in the bar won't leave you alone, even after you've said no? That's objectification, power play... that's sexism. When certain activities (shopping, spa treatments, et) are relegated almost exclusively to women and thereafter considered to be frivolous and generally stupid, while other things (barbecuing, interest in sports, outdoor activities) that are generally considered masculine are usually painted as "better"? That's sexism. It doesn't matter that tons of women may love doing those "manly" things - it doesn't change those activities' profiles to be non-preferentially considered by both genders; it just makes the (vast number of) women participants less of "girly girls." (And that one's a two-fer because it demeans men that are interested in traditionally "feminine" activities and robs them of their "manliness.") When representations of your gender in the movies are usually one-dimensional, and generally never truly happy until they have a handsome man in their lives? That's sexism too. When your merit as a mother is called into question because you spend a lot of time working, but the father never receives the same kind of scrutiny? I think you know what I'm going to say.


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