That Asshole Is You

People don’t seem to understand why I find the following post (and so many more like it) to be injurious and disgusting:

I don’t know what asshole invented the idea that teenage girls are the cause for all evil, but I really hope that person never has to raise one. I don’t want him to see her dissolve in his fingers as society tells her to eat less, be thinner, be the damsel in distress, be something for a man to fix, be different but not too different, be special but never ever a special snowflake – I don’t want him to watch as she realizes that no matter what she loves, she’ll be made fun of for it. She can simply like her coffee from Starbucks and suddenly she’s vapid and thinks herself poetic. She’ll want to play video games but be called a fake nerd, particularly if she poses in any remotely flirtatious way because for some reason despite the entire community playing games with poorly dressed women they still hate it when a real girl wears less clothing, she will be seen as trespassing in a specifically male space – but when she falls in love with a female-based television show for children, she’ll watch as men step on themselves to sexualize it.

(There is a lot more at the link, of course.)

In college, I used to know somebody who’d say the most insulting anti-Semitic things to me and my Jewish friend. These messages were always accompanied by, “I can’t believe how vicious those anti-Semites are. They say. . .” and a torrent of abuse would follow. My friend and I were young and we couldn’t really identify what was bothering us about this way of denouncing anti-Semitism.

Today I’m older and I see this fake concern for what it is. And I prefer an honest woman-hater, anti-Semite or any other kind of jerkwad who declares his or her hatred openly and directly to a fake progressive who hides behind imitating concern while pounding people over the head with vicious insults. The quoted text literally drips with enjoyment of female degradation. But it’s presented as an attempt to vindicate women, so nobody dares to criticize. Nobody even wonders why a supposed vindication of women is coming from a person who sees womanhood as so relentlessly horrific.

This is such a convenient role to assume. You can say any number of sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. things but as long as you preface your offensive rants with, “Nasty evildoers are, of course, completely wrong when they say. . .” you will be immune from all criticism.

Have you noticed how every initiative aimed at discriminating against women today disguises itself as coming from a place of concern for women? “No, it’s not victim-blaming. And no, we are not the ones trying to make women believe that leaving the house puts them in mortal danger. It’s just that there are all those nasty rapists around, it’s all their fault.”

So the answer to the linked post’s question as to “what asshole invented. . .” is obvious. Such covert woman-haters reinvent these pernicious messages every time they engage in their “defense of the downtrodden.”

Those Horrible Boys

Those mean, horrible boys! They are sexist straight from the childhood while the good, patient girls are not sexist at all. See, for example, the following story:

A popular exercise among High School creative writing teachers in America is to ask students to imagine they have been transformed, for a day, into someone of the opposite sex, and describe what that day might be like. The results, apparently, are uncannily uniform. The girls all write long and detailed essays that clearly show they have spent a great deal of time thinking about the subject. Half of the boys usually refuse to write the essay entirely. Those who do make it clear they have not the slightest conception what being a teenage girl might be like, and deeply resent having to think about it.

The only conclusion we can draw from the story is that boys are infected by sexism at a much earlier age than girls and that these boys will continue spreading sexism throughout their lives. Of course, the story acquires a completely different meaning if we consider the following:

1. “Male students are consistently less likely to graduate from high school with a diploma. Nationally, the gender gap in graduation stands at nearly 8 percentage points. Females also earn diplomas at higher rates within every racial and ethnic group examined, with the largest disparity (more than 13 percentage points) found among black students.

2. Male students are much less likely to exhibit an interest in the Humanities subjects both at school and in college.

3. And as a professor of languages and literature, I can assure you that getting the very few male students we manage to attract to the Humanities to write anything on the subject where they need to imagine something quite impossible is a losing proposition every single time.

Conclusion: the suggestion that boys “resent” thinking specifically about what it means to be a girl is ridiculous. Boys generally do worse than girls in high school and they have less interest than girls in the Humanities disciplines in college. As an educator with over two decades of experience in teaching, I am convinced that the “deep resentment” these boys experience has nothing whatsoever to do with girls. Boys are socialized towards the “practical,” “useful” disciplines. As a result, an “imagine something outlandish” exercise is a task they see as a complete waste of time.

Let’s remember that the burden of being a provider for a bunch of other people and finding one’s gender identity through that is still almost exclusively male. Keeping that in mind, I’d also be quite resentful if, instead giving me an education that would allow me to be a good, reliable provider, my time would be wasted on the “imagine you are a big blue balloon” exercises.

Women in Business Class

My sister was traveling from Paris this week on a long overnight flight. She decided to pay for a Business Class seat in order to enjoy the flight instead of suffering for hours in a cramped, miserable little space.

When she went into the Business Class section of the airplane, she was stunned to see that everybody else there was male. She was the only woman until a lady from China joined her. It felt like a striptease joint, she says.

I very much hope to be mistaken but this looks like evidence that, yet again, women economize at their own expense and don’t feel justified in treating themselves as well as men.

The need to sacrifice for the sake of parents, husbands, siblings, children, pets and potted plants is a guiding principle of many women’s lives. I see it everywhere.

Dear women, this has got to stop. You need to start doing things for yourself. Get yourself a massage, find a cool facial mask, slather it on your face and drop into a bathtub for an hour, buy a cake or two pounds of expensive fruit you like and eat them all without considering who might need this money or this cake more than you. Close the door to your office or your room and stick a note that says “Me time. Keep out!” on the door.

Of course, if you are a man who tends to sacrifice yourself, then you should stop doing that, too.

Remember, people who really love you, do not need your sacrifices. They need for you to be happy. If you can’t be happy for yourself, then make this last sacrifice and be happy for the sake of your loved ones.

>Happy Women’s Day 2011!


Today is the 100th anniversary of the International Women’s Day. If you don’t know what this holiday represents, here is some basic information:
When:  Tuesday 8 March 2011

Where: Everywhere
What:   International Women’s Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women’s Day is a national holiday.
Why:   Suffragettes campaigned for women’s right to vote. The word ‘Suffragette’ is derived from the word “suffrage” meaning the right to vote. International Women’s Day honours the work of the Suffragettes, celebrates women’s success, and reminds of inequities still to be redressed. The first International Women’s Day event was run in 1911. 2011 is the Global Centenary Year.

Make sure you congratulate the women in your life (I’m congratulating my mother, my sister and my niece today. I’d congratulate female coworkers were we not on spring break.) 

Happy Women’s Day, everybody!

My Husband Doesn’t Help Me Around the House

One of the things that annoys me the most is to hear women say that their husband or partner helps them around the house or with the baby. This way of framing the issue presupposes that housework and child-rearing are a woman’s responsibility and she should be grateful if a man condescends to participate in these activities.

My partner doesn’t help me around the house. He takes care of his responsibilities, as the adult that he is, and I take care of mine.

It might seem like a small thing, but the language we use to discuss certain aspects of our lives ends up shaping the reality we create for ourselves.

>Gender and Housework


So as we can see from this table, even when both partners are employed full-time, women still do a lot more housework than men. Why does that happen?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot and according to my observations, women themselves are often to blame for this state of affairs. In my experience, most if not all men are more than willing and capable of cooking their own meals, doing the laundry, cleaning their place of abode, etc. Granted, I haven’t spent much time with fundamentalist freaks, so I’m mostly talking about normal, educated men who do not believe actively that women are inferior by nature.

What I often observe is that women go to great lengths to do everything they can and more around the house and stifle any attempts that men make at doing their share of housework. Often, when I visit a couple I know I observe the following scene: when we finish eating, the male partner gets up to remove the dirty dishes and the woman immediately jumps up and almost screams: “Don’t! I’ll do it myself!” Usually, these are very progressively-minded, feminist women.

The myth that you have to be a good housewife to be loved and appreciated is too deeply ingrained in our minds. It’s often difficult to get rid of the feeling that a sink full of dirty dishes is somehow your problem just because of your gender. As much as we might advocate for gender equality, we often end up doing everything we can to infantilize men and prevent them from learning to fulfill their household obligations. In a way, it makes sense. If a man feels completely useless around the house, it makes a woman feel more indispensable.

What we have to do is learn to give up on this fake feeling of indispensability and remember that we are valuable not for the amount of household work we perform. We shouldn’t strive to be useful and convenient to the detriment of our equality. Contrary to what the title of the above-quoted table says, men do not need looking after. They are perfectly capable of doing that for themselves.

>Christina Stead: The Man Who Loved Children


I have no idea why Christina Stead’s amazing novel The Man Who Loved Children: A Novel
(1940) is so unknown and rarely read or discussed. Without setting this as a  goal, Stead’s novel is a feminist manifesto of an incomparable and breathtaking power. This book could be handed out to students instead of an entire course on the history of gender relations. No amount of numbers, figures and historical data could give a fuller understanding of the tragedy of female existence before reliable birth control.

Samuel Pollit, the main male character of the novel, is obssessed with the idea of having children. He baselessly believes himself to possess valuable intellectual and personal characteristics that he wants to pass on to posterity at any cost. He professes to love his 7 children but doesn’t invest much effort into feeding or clothing them. These burdens fall on the shoulders of his wife Henrietta (or Henny, as everybody knows her).

Henny hates her husband. She hates her life and she hates her body that keeps producing children, the children that chain her forever to the man she despises. There is a suggestion that in the early days of Henny’s and Sam’s married life Sam raped his wife to achieve the central goal of his existence: making her pregnant.

The contrast between the lives led by Henny and Sam is striking. Having seven children doesn’t prevent Sam from travelling the world, participating in scientific expeditions, pursuing hiis social and intellectual interests, etc. The children adore him because their father isn’t burdened with much work and can spend a lot of time playing with them and making up stories and adventures for them. Henny, however, has none of these things to brighten her life. She has to worry constantly about putting the food on the table and keeping the whole family out of financial ruin. She is miserable, angry, loud, and unkempt. She beats the children and they hate and fear her.

Henny experiences her own body as a prison, as a dark force that keeps her subjugated to the man she hates: “Look at me! My back’s bent in two with the fruit of my womb; aren’t you sorry to see what happened to me because of his lust? . . Didn’t he fix me up, pin me down, make sure no man would look at me while he was gallivanting with his fine ladies? . . What do I care, Jinny? You’re a mother yourself. Haven’t you done the horrible thing three times yourself for a man?” As you can see, Stead’s novel is brutally honest. There is no mellifluous bleating about the joys of motherhood. For a woman who has absolutely no control over her reproduction, childbearing is “the horrible thing” that pins her down and locks her forever in the prison of  her physiology.

I cannot recommend this beautiful novel highly enough. It’s a heartbreaking, cruel, painful and messy text. And you will never be sorry you read it.

P.S. Here I want to add a very pertinent quote from a discussion at Hugo Schwyzer’s blog (thank you, Anonymous reader, for bringing it to my attention): “Whatever the exact figures, childbirth has probably killed more women than any other single cause in human history. Until very recently (a miracle two millenia ago in Palestine notwithstanding), the only possible cause for pregnancy was heterosexual intercourse. So if childbirth kills women, and sex causes pregnancy, then by the logical transitive property, heterosexual intercourse has been, not so indirectly, the most lethal of all human activities for one-half of the population. To put it even more bluntly, men have killed far more women by ejaculating inside of them than they have by any other method.” You can go here for the rest of this insightful post.

>What’s Feminist about Steel Magnolias?


Yesterday I felt absolutely exhasuted after all my classes and meetings. So I felt like spending the evening watching some good old feminist classic by way of relaxation.
was on, so I decided to watch it because I always heard people refer to it as a profoundly feminist film. It is also a perennial staple of “Feminist Film” courses.

Boy, was I in for a disappointment! This poorly made, boring flick is nothing if not profoundly patriarchal. The main story line revolves around a young woman who is willing to risk her life and die (which happens in the end) in order to produce a baby. Because the central goal of a woman’s life is to make babies. Unless you can fulfill this goal, you are incomplete. So of course, the only reasonable thing to do is for a woman literally to kill herself in an attempt to produce a baby.

There are many other female characters who are mainly dedicated to endless hen-like clucking around the protagonist’s attempts to have a baby, as well as interminable conversations about hair-styles, weddings, husbands, etc.

Since the movie was excruciatingly boring, I started investigating the reasons for why some people see this patriarchal piece of rubbish as a feminist film par excellence. The only reason offered by the scholarly articles I encountered on the subject is that the movie “celebrates female camaraderie.” This is a very weird understanding of feminism. Female friendships are great but the film is obviously not about that. In Steel Magnolias, we see women of all generations inhabiting a world of their own. It’s a world of babies, beauty, and homemaking. It’s a world of things that the patriarchal societies always mark as exclusively female. Men are supposed to be detached from these “womanly” interests and concerns, while women have no interest in the pursuits of men. The view of genders as profoundly divided by an unbridgeable chasm of difference is patriarchal. There is nothing feminist about it. Just as there is nothing feminist about this silly movie.