In which I make a prediction


Via Ben Nelson, Jon Bois on Guy on the Internet. You know SIWOTI, someone is wrong on the internet? Like that, but GOTI.

Recently, as you may have seen, a feminist blogger/video gamer named Anita Sarkeesian started work on a project examining the representation, and portrayal, of women in the world of gaming. Anyone who’s played many video games lately knows that this culture isn’t quite an egalitarian Utopia. Sometimes the misogyny is sneaky and casual, and sometimes it’s almost unbelievably flagrant, but it’s perpetuated on an institutional level.

So somebody wants to examine this critically. Not militantly, not threateningly, not like she’s trying to break into your house and steal your video games. Just critically. And holy shit, did this bring out a clone army of Guys On The Internet. They harassed Sarkeesian, insulted her, and repeated “go back to the kitchen, go make me a sandwich” with the same rote, unthinking determination you might observe in the guy selling “mystical life stones” in a mall kiosk.

Imagine my surprise.

Humans have fallen for this gag for thousands of years: they’re tricked into thinking they’re fighting for a revolution, only to do and say the same old shit, the shit that’s shackled humanity ever since we decided to start living next to one another. They see a wave of people saying, “make me a sandwich, bitch,” and holy shit do they want to belong to this party. Holy shit do they want to buttress the status quo that has stood firm for eons before they ever came along, and totally does not need their help at all.

Hipster misogyny.

Maybe this guy is willing and able to think critically, realize that this sort of language is misanthropic and hurts everyone, and decide whether he wants to live as an individual.

If he doesn’t, he is Guy On The Internet. He is thoughtless and gullible. He’s firmly entrenched at the intersection of Mediocre and Cruel, which is just about the most weak, miserable place a person can find one’s self.

And then he gets to the part where he says what I’m always saying.

I  recall Guy On The Internet being around in the mid-to-late-’90s. He’d go to public, visible places on the internet — AOL chat rooms, mainstream baseball chat rooms, etc. — and drop the N-word. As these venues became moderated, and as Guy On The Internet started to get shamed by the community, he cut the act, or at least retreated to some weird, shady corner of the Internet where saying “n—–” made you hot shit.

Later — through most of the 2000s, actually — I saw Guy On The Internet embrace homophobia. Certain large, popular websites dropped words like “f—–” on the reg. Not that this battle — and for that matter, the racism battle — isn’t still being fought, because it sure as hell is. But if Guy On The Internet uses that language these days, he’s far more likely to catch shit for it or be banned from further participation entirely.

But misogynist shit is a WHOLE OTHER totally different thing, and it’s perfectly fine. I was arguing with some dope called gimpyblog about this on Twitter the other day, and he called me intellectually dishonest for comparing “nigger” with “cunt.” Yeah right, I was telling a big fat lie, coz misogyny is TOTALLY DIFFERENT. Some other guy on Facebook did the same thing a few days before that – and called me a cunt for good measure.

I don’t see it changing any time soon, either.

Comments

  1. Fin says

    On one hand, I agree that there are analogous elements between the various equality movements out there, but on the other hand I do think it’s a something of a mistake to bluntly equate them.

    Racism has been fairly overt during most of its oppressiveness, but as far as I can tell, sexism and homophobia seem to rely on subtle, social “norms”. I think this is why the fight against racism seems to have been so successful in comparison, because eliminating overt elements is both more visible and easier.

    Gay rights and feminism – aside from the most obvious, violent expressions of homophobes and misogynists – are tackling much more subtle attitudes, which has the disadvantage of being both harder, and the successes being less visible.

    I get that calling a black man “nigger” is equivalent to calling a woman “cunt”, however, I think because of the distinction between racism and misogyny, a lot of people miss why they’re equivalent. They see “nigger” as a prejudicial term, and “cunt” as merely a regular swear, and I would say it’s a difficult task to explain how the second term is prejudicial as well.

  2. InfraredEyes says

    …as far as I can tell, sexism and homophobia seem to rely on subtle, social “norms”.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you are both male and straight. I am a straight female, so I won’t speak to homophobia. But you can take my word for it that there is nothing subtle about the pressure applied to women to make them conform to stereotypes.

  3. Fin says

    @InfraredEyes

    I think you missed the entire point of my post. It was comparative, not absolute. The point being that the “pressures” put upon women, while being awful and wrong, are not the same kind of “pressures” that are put upon people because of their race.

    Do you get pulled over by police when you drive a fancy car? Or because of the clothes you’re wearing? Or simply because you’re in the wrong part of town for “your kind”?

    Of course not.

    This is not to say that you don’t face pressures to conform to a particular brand of inequality, but the pressures you face are those of comments, attitudes, threats of violence, and all sorts of other things that are distinct from the pressures faced by those that are of another race. Which are still one hundred per cent bad, and I don’t like them, but they are “subtle” insofar as they’re unconscious most of the time, and hard to highlight, and difficult to get people to realise that there is even a problem.

    Recall the most common catch-cry of the misogynist, when something they do or say is claimed to be misogynistic: “That’s not misogyny! You’re making a problem out of nothing!” This is because most people are not aware of how a particular attitude, or comment, has misogynistic qualities and consequences, because these things are much more subtle than racism.

    And to return to your opening ad hominem, you sound really white. My sex, sexuality, or race have nothing to do with what I said.

  4. Emily Isalwaysright says

    InfraredEyes, it IS more subtle than literally chaining women up and forcing them to pick cotton, or having different drinking fountains for men and women, for example.

    Simone de Beauvoir pointed out that what has kept feminism from having the same sort of successes as the French Revolution or abolitionism and the like is the way women are dispersed through the community: there is no clean segmentation and therefore less chance of unity. Moreover, this dispersion has the the consequence that much misogyny and sexism is inculcated within families behind closed doors which adds to the “subtlety” or invisibility of the problem, as it is so often out of the public eye. And because early family life and structure is so fundamental to our development misogyny and sexism can become so deeply ingrained and hardwired that it’s incredibly difficult to get people who don’t want to see it to see it.

    I would wager that by “subtle” Fin meant an insidious kind of subtlety, not a less-oppressive-because-subtle kind of subtlety. On that, I agree with him.

  5. Arthur says

    I only recently became aware that people in the US use the c-word differently to elsewhere.

    Where I come from, people don’t intend to use the c-word to make misogynistic insults. It just isn’t known as a word to attack women. I’ve heard outspoken feminists throw the word around in the past, for example. Here, the c-word is just a generic obscene word, like Prick or asshole or motherfucker.

    I agree that when it’s used in the US fashion, to insult women, it looks as obnoxious as any racist or homophobic insult.

    Maybe the distinction confused Gimpyblog?

  6. says

    With one addendum: even in the UK, some women do consider “cunt” gendered and misogynist. I know this because I asked about it years ago on the WMST list, and UK women answered. They’re very outnumbered, obviously, but they exist.

  7. GibberishWord1 says

    “I don’t see it changing any time soon, either.”

    Depends on your definition of soon. Based on the half-lives of “fag” and “nigger”, I read this post as predicting that calling a woman “cunt” on the internet will out in 5-10 years.

  8. says

    I keep seeing Justicar comments, and I keep seeing Justicar and his supporters claiming that FtB is a bunch of Nazi/Stasi totalitarians for not allowing the contrary viewpoints that Justicar keeps presenting here.

  9. bad Jim says

    Just because we have a nigger as president and nearly nominated a bitch, we think we’ve fixed our problem with racism and sexism, yet the fags are attaining equality more rapidly than either.

    We might suppose that it’s because we realize that gays are actually rather few and not at all threatening, so tolerating them makes hardly any difference. Blacks are rather more numerous, especially in the former slave states, and far more threatening. The debt incurred by slavery may turn out to exceed the wealth it produced, not least because we never let go of the conviction that some were born to a subservient role.

    By the same logic, the problem of women is even worse, because their subjugation goes back not hundreds but thousands of years and is reinforced by dimorphism (men are bigger, women bear children) and because they aren’t normally a minority. It’s not that easy to keep half the population in a subordinate position.

    Gays have never been denied the vote. Women got the vote long after male ex-slaves were, in theory, granted that right. While I’m grimly confident that we’ll continue to disadvantage non-European ethnic groups, I fear we’ll never be able to give up treating women as means to an end.

  10. bad Jim says

    It’s hard to conceive of someone so dishonest as to insist that “cunt” isn’t a sexist term in his country, since there it’s commonly applied to men, who then deploys it as a deliberately offensive epithet against a woman who lives in a country with a distinctly different norm and who has emphatically objected to its use.

    Americans are by far the largest group of Anglophones. Claiming ignorance of American usage is the least credible excuse imaginable, roughly equivalent to admitting that you’ve just graduated from grade school, and doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

  11. embertine says

    You’re right, Ophelia.

    Men in the UK certainly don’t consider ‘cunt’ to be a gendered insult, because it seems perfectly normal to them to use female genitalia as a term of degradation. Women in the UK, on the other hand, do tend to, because it’s our genitals you’re talking about, asshole. But I guess our opinions don’t count, so that’s OK.

  12. says

    Claiming ignorance of American usage is the least credible excuse imaginable,…

    It is quite easy to be ignorant of American usage of words and why on earth should someone in the UK be aware of the proclivities of the American dialect? I have found myself tripped up on quite ordinary words on occasions. Until a few months ago I was unaware,to Americans, the “twat” was anything other than a synonym for “twit.” Fifty years ago “cunt” was just considered the obscene form of the word for “vagina” and I can’t remember anyone actually calling someone a cunt until comparatively recently. When someone does it doesn’t immediately strike me that the person is trying to be misogynistic, but, given the etymology of the word it can obviously be used in that way. But I have a feeling that this specific usage is one that has become more usual in the UK in the last few years, probably because of American influence. It’s not a problem for me because it’s not a word I use.

  13. OurSally says

    >Where I come from, people don’t intend to use the c-word to make misogynistic insults.

    Where I live now, Germany, the F-word is used in exactly the same way. It is always misogynist and is meant to be really nasty.

    I was called it to my face just once, at a children’s party, and I picked up the child and carried him home and told his mother, who apologised profusely. (If it had been mine I would have washed his mouth out with soap!)

  14. dirigible says

    “Racism has been fairly overt during most of its oppressiveness, but as far as I can tell, sexism and homophobia seem to rely on subtle, social “norms”.”

    You’re comparing history with the present situation, and not on a like-for-like basis.

    When was rape within marriage criminalised in your country? When were male homosexual relations decriminalised?

    And there’s nothing subtle about “norms” that treat some people as less deserving of personhood than others.

  15. avh1 says

    @13
    Embertine, wouldn’t it be fair to say that this is an argument made in bad faith? Because I live up in Scotland where supposedly the word is used all the time. Except it isn’t. If you’re in a store the sales assistant doesn’t greet you with a cheery c-word, people don’t use it when talking to an authority figure…

  16. bad Jim says

    Yuck. “Don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt” is what I should have said. Verb/object agreement will be the death of me. It might involve a frog.

    Seriously, there are about three hundred million English speaking Americans. This site and its antecessors are American as well, and American films have been a major export for generations. It’s not merely that ignorance is no excuse, it’s that it’s just not credible. Is it news by now that “cunt”, to an American, is really, really offensive? And that anyone who has used this in recent memory has lost the last shred of deniability?

    There’s kind of an obvious point. If you contend that a particular phrase is not a gendered insult, and then go on to use it as a gendered insult, you should not be surprised never to be taken seriously ever again.

  17. SAWells says

    @13: just for the record, I am a man who lives in the UK, have done most of my life, and anyone who says that “cunt” isn’t a gendered insult here is just plain wrong. Everybody knows what it means. Arguing “men get called it too- therefore it’s not gendered” is a massive failure of logic.

  18. says

    Sexism is subtle only if you’re deliberately avoiding looking at it.

    It’s like trying to force a cat to look itself in the face in a mirror. The reason it’s hard is not because the reflection is too subtle. It’s because the cat simply refuses.

  19. Ray Moscow says

    But how can it be a gendered insult if I’m just joking? /snark

    Ray (living the in UK for some years)

  20. Ray Moscow says

    How about an experiment: the next time one is in UK, try walking up to hetero couples and calling the woman a ‘cunt’, and see whether the man laughs about it (‘why would I have thought you meant anything bad?’) or else inexplicably regards it as an insult to his wife/partner/SO.

    As a safety precaution, I suggest wearing a mouthguard, because emergency dental care is not always easily accessible here.

  21. says

    …firmly entrenched at the intersection of Mediocre and Cruel…

    This doth so resonate.

    I really do find hipster misogyny–like all the ‘hipster’ hatreds before it–has a profound odour of the pathetic about it…

    It’s like, yeah, I think I’m all cool, now, y’know, ‘cos like all these other cool kids, I can repeat shitty, uncreative, predictable tropes reinforcing a long-enforced caste order, thus joining my profoundly easily influenced voice to this jeering mob. Lookit me bein’ all rebellious ‘n shit by joining in on this abjectly miserable game. Watch me thus air my profound insecurity and woefully fragile self-esteem and need for affirmation within the traditionally dominant group by sublimating myself into this mass, slipping into this convenient slot, dumping with the rest of the gathering crowd on whomever might dare seek change, here; look at me thus helping to perpetuate this tired order. What an independent firebrand am I, thereby; look upon my fearlessness and be impressed.

    There’s little else I find so sadly loathesome, honestly.

    (/Come to think of it: this lot are aesthetic blood brothers to Christian ‘rock’. Yes, it’s a hoary old clutch of nonsense we’re promulgating, but we’re wearing some jeans we bought at a mall department store, and carrying electric guitars as tho’ we may even be able to play them, so that’s hip, right? It’s the same kinda deal, here.)

  22. Arthur says

    @Ray Moscow

    In the North of England at least, the c-word was used by both women and men as an obscene insult almost exclusively to mean (roughly) “shameless / unscrupulous bastard”. Generally referring to men. The notion that the word was used as a gendered insult towards women (in the US fashion) wasn’t widespread.

    In the modern world of global communications, British and Irish people who grew up with the traditional “shameless bastard” definition would be better to change and use another term that means roughly the same thing, to avoid international insult and confusion. “Tosser” “Wanker” “Cock” are just a few! My personal favourite is a good old fashioned “git”!

  23. says

    the c-word was used by both women and men as an obscene insult

    But what made it “obscene”? The fact that the literal meaning is “female genitalia.” So it just can’t float completely free of gender.

    Phil Plait (to take a familiar example) was probably using “dick” in the same sort of way in his “Don’t be a dick” speech. But whatever he intended, the word can’t float completely free of gender.

  24. Godless Heathen says

    Well, the reason that racism still exists is because, now that slavery and Jim Crow and poll-taxes and such have been done away with, what’s left is the kind of subtle, unthinking, socialized racism and bigotry that Fin talks about with regards to homophobia and sexism.

    I would argue that the “driving while black thing” is one of those unconscious things. Cops aren’t necessarily explicitly targeting black drivers, they are targeting people who “look suspicious” and, in the U.S., that’s often code for being black or Latinos. And that’s not a conscious thought process.

    And to InfraredEyes point: I agree with her. Sexism is subtle in the same way the type of racism I just described is subtle. It’s not at all subtle to the victim, even if the perpetrator is doing it unconsciously.

    Not to mention that some of it isn’t subtle at all. You have no idea how many times I’ve been told I should try to dress more feminine. And I don’t even dress butch, I just dress casually. To me, that’s not subtle, even if the person saying it doesn’t realize it’s sexist.

  25. Ruth says

    I think there is one epithet that actually has lost its original meaning, and that’s ‘bastard’. I don’t think that anyone would consider it a slur on people whose parents didn’t happen to be married anymore. But you know why? It’s because no one actually cares whether your parents were married. (Some people might despise your parents, but no one would despise you.)

    Interestingly, even still ‘bastard’ has two meanings. It’s used to indicate someone is a bad person, but it’s also used, sometimes almost affectionately, to mean someone unfortunate, as in ‘poor bastard’. I suppose because even when illegitimate children were still discriminated against, most people recognised that it was through no fault of their own.

  26. Rumtopf says

    UK here as well. As someone who grew up with a verbally abusive father(and temporarily is staying at home until I move in a few weeks) I can’t stand the “it means something different” excuse because it just isn’t true. I’m(and my mother) called cunt(as recently as yesterday), my brother is called prick. Dad’s a misogynist, racist, homophobic asshole and he very much means “female genitals” when he says it. Other British men have called me cunt, clearly to insult my gender. Sure this is anecdote but so is the assertion that the meaning is somehow different here. And you know, even if Brits are using it as an insult without genitals specifically in mind at that moment, they still know that as a standalone word the definition is female genitals. It’s similar with bitch, someone might be thinking “whining/complaining” when they use it but you can’t remove the connotation of gender from the word, which makes it “whining/complaining LIKE a woman”.

  27. says

    [Note: Justicar’s comment {# 2 at the time} was left in case Stephanie didn’t approve the one he left at her place. She’s approved it so I’ve now deleted it; it wasn’t directly relevant to this post.]

  28. A 'Nym Too says

    Rumtopf – I hope you escape soon. I’ve been there, and I’d die rather than doing that again. I don’t even know you, but I feel sick that I can’t help.

    *hugs*

    Oh and you’re right, ‘cunt’ is gendered, even up here in the north-east. How could it not be? The most taboo, shocking, disgusting thing in the language is a word representing female genitalia.

    Not sexist or misogynist some of you say? Pull the other one, it dispenses magic vodka.

  29. Rumtopf says

    Thank you, ‘Nym, that means a lot. c: I’ll be out in the next couple o months.

    Will the magic vodka make people think about it more? Cx

  30. fiks says

    Holy shit, words are used differently in different areas within an individual country?! Different people have different experiences of different words!? Amazing! Next, you all will be arguing about whether “catty corner” or “kitty corner” is the proper term. “You idiot! We ALL call it catty corner here! “Nuh uh! NOBODY is unaware that kitty corner is the proper one!”

    Words only get meaning from being an expression of an idea, or because you give something extra gravitas, or because you perceive that the word indicates something significant about them. Rough associations because of additional related meanings of the word CAN have important derogatory symbolism, but symbolism is not an absolute thing.

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