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Nov 26 2010

Sexy + Smart = Scary

I’ve been busy getting ready for my Canada trip, so I missed this little debate while it was first bubbling up. tl;dr some feminists are cranky that there are science cheerleaders because the only reason a woman would act sexy is because she’s been brainwashed by men.

Ow. I just strained an eye muscle from rolling them too hard.

Thankfully I don’t have to waste my time replying to think bunk, since ERV has already eviscerated it:

Not the oh-so-civil ZuskAIDS! She wants everyone who doenst conform to her stereotypes to SHUT UP!!!
Let’s say the Science Cheerleaders do keep one girl in advanced science or math classes, but make three other girls feel like they have to pornulate themselves in order to be 21st Century Fembot Compliant While Doing Science, and make five d00ds feel like it is perfectly okay to hang up soft porn pictures of sexay hawt babes in the lab and harass some colleague because hawt science women WANT to be appreciated for being sexay and smart!

Once again, women cannot be attractive and smart in Zuskas world. Women cannot enjoy being cheerleaders. Women cannot enjoy sex. NEWSFLASH, HAG– Making women feel like they have to change themselves to appease a stereotype, whether its TEH D00DS or YOURS is BULLSHIT. Girls/Boys who want to cheer and go into science SHOULDNT be degraded anymore than girls/boys who DONT want to cheer and go into science.

SO STOP DEGRADING THE ONES THAT DONT FOLLOW YOUR STEREOTYPES.

It’s funny how feminists can’t comprehend the concept of letting women do what they want. Actually, no, it’s not funny anymore – it’s fucking aggravating. This is why people think all feminists are humorless, sexless man-haters – not because of your personal choices, but because you try to police others. Don’t try to pin the cause of feminist stereotypes on “sexy feminists” when you’re the ones perpetuating the stereotypes.

92 comments

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  1. 1
    Not Guilty

    I am certainly not one of those feminists. My stance on all issues, such as shaving, changing one’s name, being a homemaker, etc, has always been – if it’s your CHOICE then there should be no overlord, feminist governing body telling you you can’t, or that you’re a bad feminist for doing it. But ya, it is fucking aggravating. I hate saying that Sarah Palin isn’t a feminist because I don’t think anybody should get to decide who is or isn’t apart of “the club” but at the same time, taking away choices from other women, by definition, isn’t feminism. It’s kinda like people screaming that I’m intolerant because I am intolerant of intolerance. Makes my head explode.

  2. 2
    Christopher Harris

    Hahaha! Watch out — you might be a bigot bigot!

  3. 3
    ERV

    You have no idea how excited I get when I get people to repost my stuff with my numerous typos included (‘doenst conform’). Ive gotten some good ones in the quotes on the SciBlogs front page :P hehehehe! DAETH TO GRAMMAH!Also, my boss paid for his undergrad education with a cheer leading scholarship.My male boss.He will be relieved to hear that he is a sex object and his brains dont mean anything.hehehehehehe!!!

  4. 4
    loreleion

    Fun fact: Every US president to serve a full two terms from FDR to GWB was previously a cheerleader, except Clinton.

  5. 5
    UncountablyFinite

    I think what Zuska is trying to say is that women need to hide their sexuality by acting and dressing modestly because evil men can’t help but objectify them if they don’t. You know, that sounds familiar, I just can’t place it . . .

  6. 6
    Lindsay

    That comment by Zuskas really crossed a line and also killed any chance for discussing the issue that they completely fail at comprehending: the problem of influence and being aware of one’s motives. There’s a huge difference between trying to encourage an examined lifestyle — the question “Why am I doing X or Y?” — and condemning everyone who does X or Y because you assume they haven’t already thought about it.

  7. 7
    Robert DeCaire

    @UncountablyFinite: I have also voiced the opinion in the past that many of these so-called feminists would feel much better if women were forced to wear burquas, because then no one would be sexy, and men would stop looking at women. Because women being sexy and men being into it is anti-feminist, doncha know?Yeah, no. Anti-feminist is telling women that they have to dress, act, and think in particular ways. Zuska is anti-feminist. She should be ashamed of herself.

  8. 8
    John Small Berries

    Sexy + Smart = 2(Sexy)

  9. 9
    Jo Smith

    Hey Jen! I’m sorry your talk at SFU got screwy cause of the snow :(. I’m WAY excited about hearing you talk tonight, though! Your last couple of posts were really awesome. Half my problem arguing my points on skepticism, feminism, atheism, etcetc, is I’m not a very eloquently worded person, and my arguments get circular and “nyeh, that’s why!” Reading your blog feels like someone has pried my brain open and is saying exactly what I’m trying to say but can’t put into words. Thank you so much! :D

  10. 10
    Leah Jaclyn

    I’m not sure were I stand on this one. On the one had, for sure every woman’s choice is their own, but on the other had, the message of this seems to be, don’t worry, you won’t lose your looks if you become a scientist, and honestly thats not the sort of message I want to be sending kids.I see it in the same way as that lingerie football, distasteful , but not something I’d shun a person for doing.

  11. 11
    Spurll

    I’ve always been an advocate of egalitarianism, but I’m also all about personal liberty. I was one of those dudes who thought that most feminists were “humourless, sexless man-haters”. Thanks for changing my mind, Jen!

  12. 12
    loreleion

    That’s not the message I think they’re trying to send. To me it’s more that you can be sexy, cool, and science-y. There’s no mutual exclusion in interests. You can be into ‘girly stuff’ and ‘geeky stuff’ at the same time. It’s something I wish I’d figured out a lot sooner.

  13. 13
    WingedBeast

    This much is very much something I, as someone with a Y Chromisome, want women to know. Being smart does not sacrifice coolness/sexiness/guysseriouslywantyouness or idealized femininity.The more women who are into being smart and understand that it is not opposed to sexiness, the better my odds of finding a strong, intelligent, sexy woman who can most likely reject me… but hey, at least there are more of ‘em.

  14. 14
    Jen

    Ha, I didn’t even notice. Apparently I’m an enemy of grammar too!

  15. 15
    tekhiun

    Funny how those feminists simply fail to see that the argument “…because the only reason a woman would act sexy is because she’s been brainwashed by men.” completely ignores the notion that a woman can act sexy to attract other women. I mean did it ever pass through their minds that there might be some lesbian cheerleaders ? Do they even know what porn is , and that this is typically the central part of it ? geez

  16. 16
    Julie

    Let’s try this again and hopefully this time it’ll stick: Say it with me, ladies! Acting or dressing a certain way in defiance of gender roles is just as much conforming to them as exemplifying them. Both involve you building your personal identity around a stereotype. So how’s about you just do what the fuck you wanna do and let everyone else do the same, kay?

  17. 17
    ERV

    Zuska talks to me exclusively as if I were straight.I have seen no recognition from her that others are not always straight, other than her fondness of using ‘lesbian’ as a derogatory term.But shes like, super socially aware, or something.

  18. 18
    Julie

    That was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor.

  19. 19
    mcbender

    I’m glad to see you saying this even if it is a (perhaps oddly) counterintuitive viewpoint to me. My gut reaction is often more along the lines of what Zuska was saying, if not as extreme.Disclaimer time: I’m a cisgendered heterosexual male.That said… speaking personally I actually find that cheerleader-type “attractiveness” is a major turn-off to me. That’s not to say that I don’t find such people attractive on a purely physical level, but I’m much less interested in approaching them because on some level I’ve bought into the stereotypes saying that such people must be brainless and that characteristic doesn’t interest me. As a result, I can sometimes be prejudiced against women who are extremely attractive physically.One of my close female friends is attractive in that way (although she is also brilliant), and I’m not joking when I say that I had to “get past her appearance” (by which I really mean, get past my preconceived notions) in order to reach the level of respect and friendship we now have. I’ve never quite told her that, but I sometimes wonder if I should.So my gut reaction to this is often along the lines of “why should I care if some scientists can demean themselves by going into disguise as brainless bimbos? I’d prefer if they looked like scientists”. Then I consider a reframing along the lines of “why should any qualified person be excluded from science just because of a stereotype?” and I catch myself. It’s no different from making people feel unwelcome for any other arbitrary characteristic (e.g. skin colour).Whether focusing on such people and bringing them to the forefront does harm to the aspirations or self-image of women who are less attractive, I don’t know, but it might be worth thinking about (so I don’t think Zuska’s concern is as baseless as Jen and ERV are making it out, but it was definitely worded poorly if that’s what the concern was). It would be foolish, however, to assert that it either does or does not do harm with no evidence…I wonder if having said any or all of this will make people here think less of me. Going back and re-reading what I’ve written, I think it comes off rather poorly… but I’ll bite the bullet and post it anyway.

  20. 20
    Azkyroth

    I read Zuska’s blog for a while, though I learned to avoid the comments section early on. Unfortunately, so far as I can tell she seems to be motivated solely by a desire to bully others and then grab for attention by striking a martyr pose. I don’t know if she was actually seriously concerned about gender equality at one point and became consumed by bitterness, or if she just settled on “feminism” as a cloak all along. I don’t believe for a moment she wants cultural sexism to be defeated – who would she sneeringly blow off anyone who criticized anything she said, ever, as being an agent of, if there were no patriarchy?

  21. 21
    ERV

    Stuff not behind closed doors:http://evolvingthoughts.net/20

  22. 22
    Cole Kleinschmit

    This is why I’ve learned to avoid Zuska and a handful of others, like Twisty Faster. For them, the concept of a woman interacting publicly with men is a sign they have been brainwashed, because unless you were raised on an island in the pacific and never knew penises existed until you were 32, (and speaking English is out of the question since it’s a male-dominated language) you can’t possibly have escaped being co-opted by the manocentric manocracy if you are willing to speak to men. Also, there’s a brilliant comment buried in one of those posts: “It’s so funny when feminists play “no true scotsman” to justify stupid.”I get that a lot from Zuska.

  23. 23
    Random D00d

    I’ve read ERV on and off for a while, and I got the impression she was heterosexual. I suppose there was something I picked up on, though I can’t think of anything specific. Or perhaps I just thought so because it was in accordance with my fantasy?Anyway I’m not particularly interested in defending Zuska, but in this case it’s possible she noticed (as I did) something indicating heterosexuality. If she was mistaken then she was mistaken, but that’s different than being hetero-assuming.

  24. 24
    JAFisher44

    Some “feminists” seem to think that no woman would ever want to be pretty unless she is pressured to be pretty by men. I don’t get it.

  25. 25
    Lindsay

    Well, it’s unfortunate, but there are still some “feminists” out there who don’t like lesbians and think that they hurt “the cause.” Actual lesbian feminism didn’t become really prominent until the late 70s-early 80s because they were often excluded from the mainstream face of feminism, and they got fed up with it. (Eventually, in the 90s, they were pretty much engulfed by queer theory.) Now, most writers will write in terms of objectification rather than pleasin’ ur manz for a reason, because any person can objectify any other person, regardless of gender. So it’s pretty obvious this person is working from an outdated, inane perspective.

  26. 26
    Lindsay

    I’m going to nitpick here, but gender roles are not the same as stereotypes. Stereotypes are perceived impressions of how the world works in an overgeneralizing fashion and carry strong negative connotations, but gender roles aren’t overgeneralizing because they’re culturally sensitive, derived in a revisionist fashion (in that we look backward to see what practices were done by males and females), and most importantly, they don’t necessarily carry a negative connotation. Adhering to a stereotype is not the same as adhering to a gender role.

  27. 27
    Julie

    You’re right, that was nitpicking.

  28. 28
    katalina

    You know, another issue that I’ve come up against is the perception that if you’re in science or business or anything serious, that you can’t be sexy because that means you’re NOT serious. Even when not dressed revealingly, some people won’t take me seriously because I am blonde and have boobs. That’s frustrating. So to me, the right message is that women can be smart, sexy, fun, AND serious about their work. Just because you like to laugh and have fun doesn’t mean that you can’t do technical work (I work in tax).

  29. 29
    katalina

    I don’t think it’s bad to admit that we all have certain preconceived notions that we have to overcome. I was really persuaded by Crommunist’s recent post on scientific racism, in which he argues that we are all racist, but that by acknowledging the subconscious thoughts we have that we know are wrong, we make the first step toward becoming anti-racist. I think the same thing is true in large part for a lot of subconscious judgments we make, including assuming that very pretty women are stupid. Or that women who dress a certain way or do their make-up a certain way are stupid or slutty or shallow. I have to catch myself sometimes when I meet people, just the same way you’ve described.

  30. 30
    Lindsay

    Except, you know, that was the basis of your comment: performing gender roles is the same as adhering to a stereotype, and if they’re not the same, then I’m challenging what you said while trying not to be rude and say “oh hey you’re wrong.” Guess the hedging wasn’t necessary. You’re not adhering to a stereotype when you do or don’t perform a gender role: you’re constructing your persona based on your acceptance or rejection of that particular act. A stereotype is a stereotype largely because it’s fucking wrong, but a gender role isn’t intrinsically wrong or right: it’s a damn behavior.

  31. 31
    Azkyroth

    I read Abbie’s comment as her problem being more or less “Zuska assumes all women are heterosexual, at least the ones who matter,” rather than being a specific complaint about a specific interaction with her.

  32. 32
    Egoistpaul

    I don’t why you care about stereotypes. They are for the irrational lower organisms, who has no ability to think and can only make arbitrary perceptions or second-hand information.As an individualist, we should think what is best for us and live our lives for sake of ourselves, not others. If we don’t, we are no better than those lower organisms.

  33. 33
    Andrew Hall

    True story. A buddy of mine was travelling with the Greatful Dead (a while back) which meant he lived in a tent and did quite a bit of drugs. However, he was not an idiot. One day he wore a plain white tshirt in the camp. This went against the social norm of wearing a tie dye tshirt. Two of his fellow travellers asked him, “Dude, where’s your tie dye?””I refuse to conform to your nonconformity,” he retorted.The next day he woke up to see the same two guys in plain white tshirts proclaiming to a crowd, “We refuse to conform to your nonconformity!”Indeed.

  34. 34
    Ani Sharmin

    I can feel a certain amount of sympathy for women who would be upset by science cheerleaders, since I’ve also come across the idea that, while it’s okay to be either smart and sexy or only sexy (but not smart), it’s not considered okay to be only smart (but not sexy). It can be frustrating when others completely ignore your actions, personality, ideas, etc. just because you don’t look pretty while paying attention to another person’s actions, personality, ideas, etc. just because that person is pretty.Ultimately, though, we have to realize that each woman should have the right to live her life the way she wants. The fact that there are science cheerleaders suggests that more women are realizing that they don’t have to live according to the stereotypes of any group and can just be themselves. That seems worth celebrating.

  35. 35
    Rob Welch

    I’m not scared of you, Jen.

  36. 36
    the_Siliconopolitan

    make five d00ds feel like it is perfectly okay to hang up soft porn pictures of sexay hawt babes in the lab

    I did that. In a lab of mostly doods.When we got a gurlz I went out and bought some sexy, sexy firemen as well.Was that the wrong thing to do?

  37. 37
    the_Siliconopolitan

    Is that why Hilary Rodham was unelectable?

  38. 38
    the_Siliconopolitan

    I recall being surprised when ERV mentioned boyfriends at some point.I’d fallen into the stereotype of smart, sporty women being lesbians …

  39. 39
    Bookewyrme

    This attitude (in the article) is why I’ve always been extreeeeemely skeptical of feminism and never for a moment thought of myself as one. The opposite-direction policing of women and their choices which seems to be a foundation of feminism as often presented to the public doesn’t sit well with me. My first exposure to it was embedded in the idea that if your highest ambition was to be a stay-at-home mother, then you were somehow lacking in “true” ambition. Screw that noise. Your succinct opposition to such ideas is a large part of why I love your blog so much, Jen. You’ve also helped me to reconsider my preconceived notions of what feminism is. ^_^Oh, and I’m woman who is smart (but not science smart) and decidedly sexy (and enjoys it) and anyone who has a problem with it can go stick it up a duck’s bum. *insert raspberry noise here*

  40. 40
    J. Mark

    I luv the way you think…logical, simple, and straight forward! It seems like convoluted thinking is the norm in cyber space and in other media sources…We need more voices of reason like yours….keep up your good work.

  41. 41
    cat

    I disagree. Since none of the links actually take you back to the article by this ‘Zuska’ I can’t comment on the content of the original piece. However, this notion that ‘she chose it so it can’t be objectifying/stereotyping/etc’ is bullshit. A lot of sexism functions this way, by making people ‘choose’ to obey sexist standards rather than face the fall out of refusing to do so. There are plenty of women who wake up every day and spend hours doing hair and makeup, shaving and plucking, and who absolutely hate it or would not do so if they thought they could be treated with a comparable amount of social respect if they didn’t. Is someone in the bathroom with them forcing that lipstick on? No, they ‘choose’ to do it. Failing to see that choices are constrained in an oppressive system is a mistake. This ad campaign is problematic (the post by sci that can be found through the links does a fair job of pointing out some of the issues http://scientopia.org/blogs/sc… and the fact that the participants agreed to it does not make it feminist or 100% peachy anymore than the willingness of actresses to act in sexist films would make those films just fine.”. This is why people think all feminists are humorless, sexless man-haters – not because of your personal choices, but because you try to police others. ” This isn’t true at all. Try being publically butch (or genderqueer and read as hard butch) for a day. Don’t equate feminine and perky with the only way to not be a ‘humorless, sexless man-hater’. Again, I’m not familiar with Zuska, but your assumption that all feminist who aren’t fond of the ‘I chose participate in public and stereotypical objectification, so that makes it a-okay’ line are humorless, sexless man-haters is ridiculous.

  42. 42
    partly_cloudy

    Once again, women cannot be attractive and smart in Zuskas world. I think this totally misses the point. Just by using the very word “attractive,” by dubbing a woman “attractive,” you’re placing her in the universe of the male gaze, where “attractiveness” is determined by the preferences of the opposite sex. This also fails to interrogate the category of “attrativeness.” What is “attractive”? What we mean by “attractive” in the context of the above quoted sentence is “conventionally attractive TO men, according to Western standards of beauty and body shape.” An “attractive” woman to a femme lesbian is not the same as an attractive woman to a male football fan. Let’s recall our Judith Butler here. Second, the statement perpetuates the idea that the reason women wear what they wear, or dress up how they dress up, is to be looked at, to be “attractive.” I think most feminists would agree that women should wear what they wear, act how they act, dress up how they dress up – just because they are human subjects and autonomous agents, owners of their own bodies and destinies, who should have the freedom to do whatever they want, as adult men do, without people making assumptions about their aspirations to be “attractive” to the opposite (or same) sex, or not.But women still need to be made conscious of the way the cheerleading and dance arenas have historically objectified and stereotyped women and perpetuated harmful beauty standards – and continue to do so, at least to some extent. Cheerleaders and dancers, even for pro football, have to have *exceptional* skill. Really, they are athletes. Cheerleading should be treated like a sport. Yet it isn’t because it’s still considered an appendage to the more-important male sports, which is a legacy of its sexist past. We shouldn’t kid ourselves that part of the reason such squads exist attached to pro men’s teams is because they’re of a long tradition of being decorations for the main event (the male sport), and to have their bodies ogled by men. And, let’s face it: The body standards are draconian. A woman with even a minor appearance flaw, like a belly paunch, probably would not make the cut regardless of her brilliant technique or skill. That’s a problem.If you’re going to take a liberal view that women “can make whatever choices they want,” which I agree with, at least insist that we all remember the history of the institution of cheerleading and not downplay the sexism and underrepresentation of women that is, and was historically, rampant in science and medicine, or downplay the privilege associated with being thin or conforming to Western beauty standards. All we ask is for some historical and social responsibility here. The Science Cheerleaders probably are not going to be that inspirational to the 90% of women who do NOT conform to these beauty standards.

  43. 43
    partly_cloudy

    I’m with you 100%. The liberal “free-to-have-your-choice” theories ignore the massive privilege that comes with conforming to conventional beauty standards, and the social structures in place punishing women who don’t.

  44. 44
    partly_cloudy

    Really? And you think women are supposed to feel totally comfortable in an atmosphere like that? (Or feel “better” just because you added a “sexy man” pic?) lol. I, for one, consider it unprofessional, if not immature. You couldn’t hang up pictures of women if you worked in an office somewhere, so what makes it “OK” in a lab?Sigh. And we just can’t figure out why women feel unwelcome in science and engineering. :/

  45. 45
    Robert DeCaire

    “I think most feminists would agree that women should wear what they wear, act how they act, dress up how they dress up – just because they are human subjects and autonomous agents, owners of their own bodies and destinies, who should have the freedom to do whatever they want, as adult men do, without people making assumptions about their aspirations to be “attractive” to the opposite (or same) sex, or not.”Yes, feminists ought to think that women should be able to dress and act in whatever way they like. But unfortunately many people who call themselves feminists don’t think that. They think that if some women are dressing and acting in ways that make them attractive to certain types of people that they want to be attractive to, those women are “placing themselves in the universe of the male gaze,” which is not something that one can choose to do even if it makes one happy, in the ideological universe of those so-called feminists.It is anti-feminist to suggest that you know better than any individual woman what is best for her to think, say, or do, on the basis of your ideology. Feminism is about giving self-determination to women, but too many pantomime feminists think that it’s about every woman toeing an arbitrary ideological line, and that if any of those women enjoy being enjoyed by men, they are enemies of the cause.

  46. 46
    partly_cloudy

    The opposite-direction policing of women and their choices which seems to be a foundation of feminism as often presented to the public doesn’t sit well with me.Your key words are “as often presented to the public.” Feminism is pretty much none of the crap you hear in the mainstream media. Try Feministing.com . Or, for a sort of good intro analysis of various types of feminism, Allan Johnson’s _The Gender Knot_.

  47. 47
    loreleion

    No one’s saying there is no societal pressure to look and act traditionally ‘feminine,’ but you can’t just swap it around and say anyone acting that way is doing it because of societal pressure. That is more degrading to women, because it says they’re simply incapable of making those choices without regard to external pressures.I like being feminine, pretty, sexy, whatever. I’m a trans woman. My life has been spent with a shitstorm of societal pressure to not be girly and all that, but it is what I want, and there’s nothing wrong with that.I also like science, computers, and other geeky shit. And cursing like a sailor. :P

  48. 48
    partly_cloudy

    I think we should be careful throwing about the label “anti-feminist,” especially accusing people who self-identify as feminist of being suddenly “anti-feminist.” There is no such thing as a “true” and “false” feminism, and to claim such and to attack individual people rather than simply their ideas just causes animosity and hinders discussion.Feminism must do more than uphold women’s self-determination. It should make women conscious of the systems they’re caught up in. And there are a lot of systems swirling about the Science Cheerleaders, beyond the inspirational idea that “not all hot ladies are airheaded,” that we end up ignoring.

  49. 49
    Julie

    Hells to the yes, rock on.

  50. 50
    Azkyroth

    Having had boyfriends in the past isn’t inconsistent with being a lesbian – some people take a while to figure it out or come to terms with it, especially in more conservative areas. (Obviously, having had boyfriends is blatantly not inconsistent with being bisexual, which is also “not straight.”) I remember wondering about this idly but reserving judgment until she mentioned her fondness for “the smell of a [freshly] sweaty guy”, personally.

  51. 51
    katalina

    I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do about standards of beauty, because they have always existed in all societies, and I don’t think men are exempt from social standards that dictate what they should wear or how they should groom themselves. There is definitely a social advantage to conforming, as is true of all societal standards. I don’t think it’s fair, but I do think it’s generally true.We can reject these standards and try not to judge others based on their level of conformity to the popular standard of what “well-groomed” means. And while that standard has certainly widened since, say, the 1950′s, I’m not sure that it’s possible to work outside that standard completely. Any ideas?

  52. 52
    Robert DeCaire

    I disagree. Any time you are telling a woman that she should be anything in particular, because you have an opinion about how women ought to be, you are attempting to oppress her.

  53. 53
    the_Siliconopolitan

    Oh – I didn’t mean to imply that I knew one way or another now.I’m just publicly confessing that I’m jumping to conclusions as fast as Zuska.

  54. 54
    cat

    I never said that femmes don’t exist, what I said was that ignoring the social pressures and context and framing all problematic campaigns as an issue of individual choice was messed up. Femmes exist, yes, but they aren’t the majority of feminine presenting people. The choice paradigm is an oversimplification in part because it absolutely fails to make such distinctions. Someone who happens to match up more with one side of the binary gender roles because it suits their personality and someone who elects it as the lesser of two evils out of fear of social retribution both make a ‘choice’, but these choices are not equivalent. It is the foolishness of assuming that just because some ‘choice’ is involved that it exists in a vaccuum from social pressures and is automatically an examined, deliberate choice (as a femme is vs. giving in to social standards of feminity) to which I was objecting. Of course choice is important, but it isn’t the be all and end all of determining whether something is feminist, has problematic gender issues, etc.

  55. 55
    Amanda Marcotte

    Your post is arguing a strawman. No one said that women can’t want to be sexy. But feminists do argue against the patriarchal definition of “sexy” that is all about being supplicant to men, instead of subjective person with desires of her own. Cheerleading is “sexy” because it’s about women fulfilling the role of supporters of men, instead of stars in their own right.

  56. 56
    Amanda Marcotte

    For instance, I think I’m pretty damn sexy, but it’s not because I view my sexuality as a toy for men to play with, or my role in relation to men to be the wiper of brows and cheerleader and food provider. I’m sexy *because* I’m smart. I demand the right to be sexy how men are sexy—because they do instead of just support, because they want as much as they are wanted.

  57. 57
    Dan W

    I can’t speak for other men, but for me Smart=Sexy, so it’s more like Sexy+more Sexy= Epic Win! I’ve never understood the feminists like the one you quoted who have such a negative view of sexuality.

  58. 58
    Azkyroth

    Of course, it doesn’t matter. ERV is not female. ERV has questioned the Infallible Received Wisdom of the Most Holy Zuska. Therefore, ERV has become The Enemy, and The Enemy is male. ERV’s self-concept, self-definition, social behavior, and physical anatomy are all irrelevant. ERV is male, because she has disputed the Infallible Received Wisdom of the Most Holy Zuska. If you doubt this, consider that any statement questioning or disputing the Infallible Received Wisdom of the Most Holy Zuska is by definition “mansplaining.” Obviously the phrase “mansplaining” makes no sense applied to a comment from anyone other than a man, therefore, since ERV has mansplained, ERV is a man, irrespective of her experience, role in society, or body morphology. ERV has questioned the Infallible Received Wisdom of the Most Holy Zuska, therefore ERV has mansplained, therefore ERV is THE ENEMY and THE ENEMY is a d00dly d00d, and therefore male. QED.(*pukes, possibly on shoes* …like I said, I learned to stay out of Zuska’s comment threads pretty early on.)

  59. 59
    Azkyroth

    Um, that’s reasonable in and of itself, but what was it you said about arguing a strawman?Or is it really inconceivable that “cheerleading” as done by the Science Cheerleaders could possibly mean something more – or just different – to the people doing it, than the word “cheerleading” means to you?

  60. 60
    Azkyroth

    …in fact, you’re basically just doing the same thing again. You’re trying to impose your personal sense of what things mean and how they relate to each other on other women instead of allowing them to define and determine these things for themselves.

  61. 61
    ERV

    Crazy ass high school girls.Supporting men instead of being stars in the own right.http://www.youtube.com/watch?vhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?vhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v…Or you could look up pretty much any video on YouTube using the keyword, ‘cheerleading’.

  62. 62
    Jeanette

    What Azkyroth said. Just because you don’t respect cheerleading as a sport (and yes, it’s its own sport now, however it began), doesn’t mean that in reality it’s about being a “toy for men to play with”. I’m sure there are guys out there that think that is what it’s about, but I’m sure the science cheerleaders would be the first to educate them that they’re not “toys” and that they’re in fact brilliant thinkers and dynamic people outside of this sport. That’s kind of the whole point.

  63. 63
    Julie

    “Femmes exist, yes, but they aren’t the majority of feminine presenting people.”I’m sorry but, how on earth could you possibly know that? Certainly it’s not likely that ALL people who wear feminine clothing/makeup/etc. do so due to their own preferences, but for you to throw out “the majority” with conviction like that seems dishonest.

  64. 64
    Robert DeCaire

    I don’t really find myself that attracted to women who are considered “conventionally beautiful.” Cheerleaders, or the Barbie-esque cheerleader stereotypes, do nothing for me. But I don’t see anything wrong with a man being attracted to that type of person, or a woman aspiring to be like that because she finds it attractive herself. I like to dress and groom myself in a certain way because it makes me feel attractive, and I think that most people have their own favourite fashion and grooming habits unless they are deliberately trying to look awful because they are politically opposed to the idea of looking attractive at all, because of the “male gaze,” or whatever their pet hang-up is.I find that it is disturbingly common that people who want to consider themselves progressive and politically aware have a tendency to confuse their personal taste for objective judgment. Not that most other people don’t do that as well, but these people ought to know better.I think that we are going to have to accept that many people, men and women, enjoy traditional standards of beauty. We need to prevent people from enforcing those standards on others, but we can’t go charging off at windmills any time someone puts on some makeup or shakes a pom pom. We also can’t enforce any other standards on others to replace the standards we’re trying to deconstruct. That’s just hypocrisy.

  65. 65
    Robert DeCaire

    Yes. Exactly. Rock on, sister.There is this idea that if something has been identified as being associated with a repressive social order, no one can choose to do that thing of their own volition, because the very fact that they’re doing it is evidence enough that their motivations are not legitimate and are just a product of that repression. This is an argument that is particularly common among Marxist feminists, who repurposed the idea of “false consciousness” to give them an all-inclusive argument against anyone who happens to disagree with them. They can say, “you might think you like make-up and frilly skirts, but that’s only because you’re oppressed and you don’t realize it. We know better than you, and it is our duty to oppose your right to choose for yourself. By forcing you to agree with us, we are rescuing you from oppression.” It’s marvellously Orwellian.

  66. 66
    Robert DeCaire

    I don’t think that anyone who supports people being allowed to think, act, and dress the way they like thinks that there are “binary gender roles.” That’s a rhetorical tool of anti-feminist thinkers. There are a multitude of ways for a woman to put together a comfortable image for herself, and having a taste for the cheerleader image is just one of them. To say that you’re either a cheerleader or you’re escaping from the chains of oppressive societal standards is just a false dichotomy and obfuscates the legitimate choices and preferences of people who aren’t you.

  67. 67
    Robert DeCaire

    Yeah, it’s starting to sound like we need a “cheerleader pride” movement to fight against oppression by people who want to abolish anything that doesn’t fit their narrow view of what a feminist looks like.

  68. 68
    Richard Almaraz

    Oh, so it’s like a logarithm.That makes sense.

  69. 69
    Amanda Marcotte

    Maybe, but I do recall from high school and watching professional sports that cheerleaders job are to cheer on the people who are actually playing the game. Perhaps that’s changed in the past 24 hours?

  70. 70
    Amanda Marcotte

    People are “allowed” to believe whatever horseshit they want. Doesn’t mean that I, as a skeptic, have at agree.I actually don’t care about the science cheerleaders. I think they’re cute. But that I support what they’re doing doesn’t mean that I’m going to use bad arguments for it, attack strawmen, or pretend that cheerleading is something it’s not.

  71. 71
    loreleion

    Scroll up a bit to ERV’s youtube links.

  72. 72
    Natasha Turnbull

    I’m going to have to disagree with Jen on this one. I thought Zuska made an excellent (and hilarious) point. Seriously, everyone should read it again. It’s not about being anti-sex or anything like that. This is anti-objectifying. Women should be in science because it’s awesome, not because men will think they’re hot.

  73. 73
    cat

    Socially, there are binary gender roles, just like socially there are ‘races’. Shit, even the fact that we are discussing feminine vs masculine is putting the issue in terms of social gender binaries. Social constructs have massive power over people’s lives. I am a genderqueer person whose appearance does sometimes screw with others ability to place me into one of the two socially allowed gender boxes. Want to know about binaries? Try being asked ‘are you a man or a woman’ fifty fucking times in the same day.”To say that you’re either a cheerleader or you’re escaping from the chains of oppressive societal standards is just a false dichotomy and obfuscates the legitimate choices and preferences of people who aren’t you.” Yes, because that’s even remotely like what I said (<-sarcasm). I specifically said that there are people who deliberately elect to do things that are classed on one side of the binary (mascline or feminine) because it suits their wishes and personality. However, there is also massive social coercion at play. A choice made because it fits your desires and a choice made out of fear of retribution for doing otherwise are not equivalent. Pretending that we can’t call a media campaign or advertisement problematic or even sexist because the model or representative chose to particpate is ridiculous.@Julie, the statement is one from experience of every single group of cis hetero women I have ever spoken to (femme lesbians and trans women tend to have more thouroughly examined these things, though I am sure there are exceptions there as well). I wonder, do you honestly think that statement is false?

  74. 74
    Azkyroth

    Read a few of the comments here. I think this counter-objection has been addressed.Yes, women SHOULD be in science because it’s awesome. That’s not going to stop a lot of people (we’re focusing on a certain subculture of, or trend among, women here, but this applies to everyone) from the belief that being in science is incompatible with or will detract from their being “awesome” as THEY define it.The idea here is to illustrate that, contrary to stereotype, being in science is NOT mutually exclusive with one of the general formulas or categories of ways some women like to define and present themselves because THEY enjoy that self-definition and presentation.How the hell do you get “women are supposed to be in science because men will think they’re hot” from that?

  75. 75
    Julie

    Wait, let me get this right… The group of women who are challenging negative stereotypes of women in science and encouraging inclusiveness regardless of physical appearance are objectifying them, but the woman who thinks that if you’re blonde with big tits, your intelligence is irrelevant because you’re already “privileged” is anti-objectification.

  76. 76
    Lindsay

    But attractive people are privileged (though not necessarily in the same way that other groups are) and this is pretty old news. Out of all the crap Zuska spewed, that actually had some truth to it.

  77. 77
    Julie

    So, an anecdote? Gotcha.

  78. 78
    Julie

    Are you perpetually inclined to take a tiny detail and blow it out of proportion while letting the point go whooshing right over your head?

  79. 79
    Azkyroth

    Preemptively: “inclined?” I mean, how would you know what angle she’s sitting at? She might be sitting straight up!

  80. 80
    Azkyroth

    Cat, I’m curious: how would you feel about being asked “which pronouns do you prefer?” or “how do you prefer to be addressed?” Would that be an improvement or would it still be calling attention to your non-binary “otherness?”

  81. 81
    Lindsay

    Again, it’s not a tiny detail; it’s how you phrase it, and in this case the privilege is what you seem to be taking to task, not the fact that Zuska’s example is obviously NOT an example of anti-objectification. You can blame it on the fact that I’ve been an editor for years at various levels, but you’re not going to stop me from doing it. Clarity improves your point.So, no, “the point” isn’t going over my head; in fact, I was in agreement, but didn’t feel the need to tack on anything because I would’ve said something if I didn’t agree. Yeah.

  82. 82
    Julie

    Privilege was clearly *not* what I was taking to task, but rather Zuska’s use of it to try and discredit the intelligence of attractive women while attacking another group of women for objectification. Oh, and appeals to authority don’t make your point any less asinine.

  83. 83
    Julie

    I suppose I could be referring to the stick up her ass.

  84. 84
    Julie

    Privilege was clearly *not* what I was taking to task, but rather Zuska’s use of it to try and discredit the intelligence of attractive women while attacking another group of women for objectification. Oh, and appeals to authority don’t make your point any less asinine.

  85. 85
    Jeric_synergy

    Is it grammar, or just spelling?

  86. 86
    Jeric_synergy

    Oh, god, Twisty Faster— she could put every lemon tree in the Western Hemisphere out of business.

  87. 87
    Jeric_synergy

    Why deny your humanity: humans like looking at pretty humans. Let ‘em.

  88. 88
    Bookewyrme

    I think you mean feminism “shouldn’t” be any of that crap. Sometimes, it very clearly is. Or if you like, true feminism is none of that crap but a lot of that crap gets paraded as feminism in feminist spheres for whatever reason. Falls out to about the same thing in practical terms, sometimes. I read Feministing sporadically. I usually read Feministe for preference. Not really sure why, that’s just sort of how my reading-habits fell out.

  89. 89
    katalina

    Thanks, I appreciate the reality check! Sometimes I forget that the issue is enforcement, rather than choice. Like Jen’s post from today points out, the compulsory element is what matters.

  90. 90
    partly_cloudy

    Yeah, that’s getting too drowned in postmodern pluralism and relativism for me. When you’re advocating pluralism, as you are, you can’t continue to ignore power structures already in place. This is the point cat tried to make above. At some point people have to take a position, not just claim “everybody can do anything and it has no meaning. I can dress like a cheerleader, or like a butch, and it has no meaning.” Well, things have meanings. We have to recognize this to resist them.And simply giving advice to someone is not immediately “attempting to oppress” them. Wow. If this was the case, all teachers and parents would always be oppressors, which I think isn’t the case. (Of course, there’s an argument to be made that certain methods of teaching and parenting that we use help perpetuate harmful power structures, as we see in, e.g., Foucault, Althusser.) But you don’t break down these power structures through uncritical pluralism and diversity, encouraging people to ignore meanings and values.

  91. 91
    cat

    Well, I am something ‘other’ than binary identified. It generally isn’t nonbinary identified people who get upset when others think of them as non-binary, it is binary identified people who do not blend well in the eyes of others who are upset by this because it is a rejection of their identity.I am generally okay with questions about pronouns, however, I have also never had those sorts of questions come up outside of a conversation where it might be of some use for the other person to know, unlike random people on a bus, elevator, etc. deciding to interogate you because you confuse their binary sorting.

  92. 92
    Jessy_Here

    I think what feminists are concerned about is that being sexy is the only way women are allowed to exist in a man’s world. Not that women shouldn’t be sexy at all. Ugly, fat, or old? GTFO. You are not worth anything unless you are sexy. Seriously, can you think of any unattractive women who are celebrated in this way? I think not.

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