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The disproportionate and disturbed anger

On Monday July 1 I was walking around in Dublin so I didn’t see Ken’s Popehat post Why Does Talking About Creepers And Harassment Make People So Angry? I didn’t see it until now, when a correspondent pointed it out to me.

I confess:  I still don’t get it.

We write about things that make people angry:  sometimes on purpose (u mad bro?), sometimes because the topic interests us.  But few topics are as consistent in their ability to draw anger and trolling and bizarre visitors as the issue of sexual harassment and responses to it.

If I talk about my experiences training clients’ employees in how to avoid sexual harassment, I draw nutters.  If I talk about sites that discuss bad behavior towards women in gaming culture — great sites like Fat, Ugly, or Sluttypeople get angry.  Discussions of outing and vigorous more-speech remedies seem to be more controversial when the target is chosen for being a creeper rather than, say, a racist.  Even the abstract subject of this post — the meta-examination of why the subject of harassment is so incendiary to some — generates some of the most vituperative comments we ever see here.

I still don’t get it too either, but I can certainly corroborate it. Yeah. For years I just quietly blogged away and there were disagreements but they were just disagreements. And then everything changed, because sexual harassment.

 When people discuss this sort of behavior on forums and blogs dedicated to the culture, the responses are salted with vicious and seemingly unbalanced anger, anger that I don’t see in other contexts.

Like I said, I don’t get it.

I was thinking about this over the weekend because an author talked about the process of reporting harassment at a convention, and out tumbled two things:  anger, and stories  of women putting up all the time in this subculture with creepers.  The experiences are not new; perhaps the willingness to talk about it is only emerging, as is a willingness to speak up when women are classed as chainmail-bikini-chicks and “lady writers.”

I’m not saying that every accusation of sexual harassment is truthful; no class of accusations should be treated as presumptively true.  I’m not saying that every perception of sexism is fair-minded or rational; no class of human grievance is uniformly trustworthy.  I’m not saying that people should shut up about emerging norms about public behavior towards women if they disagree with those norms; I’m a free speech advocate, and I think people should participate in the marketplace of ideas if they are willing to pay the toll of being disagreed with.  I’m not calling for adherence to dogma; we should call out dogma when it conflicts with real values like due process.  What I’m doing is questioning the disproportionate and, to be blunt, disturbed anger that arises over this particular subject. I’m questioning how easily the “criticism of my good-natured kidding is tyrannical censorship” trope is brought to bear when the issue is sexism or sexual harassment.  I’m questioning why the — pardon me — hysterical terms like “lynch mob” are so quickly brought to bear when this is the subject.  I’m questioning why on some issues — say, race — incoherent basement-stinking fury is relegated to places like Stormfront, but when it comes to sex it’s alarmingly close to the mainstream.  I’m asking why is it that if I write about racism, truly nutty and racist response are fairly rare, but if I talk about sexual harassment or sexism, I can count on being classified as a “white knight” or “mangina” or “pink shirt” or homosexual or something.

I don’t know. I do not know. But it’s good that people are asking.

Comments

  1. mildlymagnificent says

    Aaaaand the comments thread demonstrates his point beautifully.

    Anyone’d think he had some people lined up ready to illustrate it for him. Sadly he knew, and we all knew while we read his post, it was all too bluddy predictable.

  2. bad Jim says

    I’m going to guess that it’s because people violently object to the idea that they might have done something wrong, and that when it comes to sexual harassment men suspect that their own behavior might be criticized. It’s hard to explain the anger otherwise.

    It may be too early to assume that people aren’t equally touchy about racism. It’s not at all difficult to find angry denial and tu quoque responses by people who are openly racist.

  3. says

    One of the early commenters suggested that the sexual desire component may have a lot to do with it. Seems pretty plausible to me, anyway, that it’s a significant factor that’s not in play with racism.

    But I’m also not sure it’s quite as different from racism as Ken’s post implies. I think the racist stuff is more hidden with dogwhistles and whatnot since more people, even the proud racists, that it’s less acceptable to be as blatant about it.

    It’s still pretty amazing to me how blatant the misogyny and sexual harassment stuff is. Seems like so many of them feel so justified about it. Perhaps because differences between men and women are more obvious/apparent?

  4. Malachite says

    For another topic that draws similar amounts of anger, vicious troll etc., try suggesting that it is ok to be fat.

    Not sure what those two topics have in common that other social justice issues don’t, though.

  5. dezn_98 says

    It is because a discussion of sexual harrasment challenges the way this society views women, men, and courtship. A way that is ingrained in most of us – and a way that challenges our values. I would think any idea that challenges cultural values would be filled with a backlash of people who have internalized those values and never bothered to question them.

    I think the idea that a discussion of racism attracts less backlash than sexual harrasment is mistaken. As a person of color who talks to white people about racism a lot… I can tell you that I get just as much awkward nutter angry irrational backlash. Just as much as when I talk about what is wrong with the way we treat women and why sexual harrasment policies are necessary to destroy bad gender roles.

    I mean fck, look at the Trayvon case… is anyone really going to tell me that a discussion of modern racism does noy spark these wierd aggressive and disgusting backlash from a lot of privleged folk in society? I mean I don’t want to turn this into “whos plight is worse” or “which issues is more difficult to talk about publically” because that is a silly thing to do. I also know that the person who wrote that article is drawing a parrallel based on experience, as such means to do no such thing either… but something about that line really bothers me as a person of color who is going through a lot of emotional hardship because of all the fcked up things going on with the Trayvon case.. So I want to say something to this analogy.

    I talk about racism a lot. I talk about it everywhere, and I always attract large amount of nutters. Heck I had to abbandon a forum because I was so outspoken there, that the racism nutters just took over and all they talk about is how black people do this or that… My experience with talking out about racism gives me a different perspective.

    I have come accross the sentiment that they feel its “easier” to talk about racism than sexism before…. and I always respond to people by saying.. then you are probably not talking about racism in the right way to begin with. If you talk about racism in the right way, a way that actually challenges a person predispositions on race, actually challenges the cultural norms, than the backlash you get is “the same ” (I put that in quote because I am not a woman and thus probably under estimate the backlash women get… Also because there probably is some legitimacy to asking the question of which cultural attributes are more ingrained racism or sexism….)

    My position on this is as such…. whenever you challenge any cultural norm, you are going to get an irrational angry backlash from people who have internalized that cultural value. The deeper than cultural value is tied to that persons identity and/or the more prervasive that cultural value is… the more irrational emotional backlash you are going to get. Racism and sexism are deeply ingrained in society, and such, when you talk about it… you are going to get a backlash from most people. Now if we wish to actually challenge and change peoples minds and make them analyze their cultural norms…. we are going to have to deal with this emotional backlash. It is part of the process – I went through it in my younger days when I was learning about sexism as a privileged male.

    I think that, from this, it logically follows that, if you are not actually challenging any cultural norms, then you will see no cultural backlash. In that there are ways to talk about sexism and racism in a mainstream way. A way that will not actually challenge any norms at all. For examlple if I wish to say the KKK is a racist organization or that women should have the right to vote…. who cares? In this culture, thankfully, the majority already view this as true… as such, when I say such things, it complies with cultural norms, thus no cultural backlash.

    Yet, what if I say, as I often do, that white poeple act racist all the time.. when I say that, this goes against the cultural norm of a “post racial america” and I get a huge ignorant emotional angry backlash from mostly white males. Why? Because in this instance I am going against culture, not with it. I think that if we are to talk about racism in any meaningful way… then the evidence that we are doing something right, is a cultural backlash. If there is not cultural backlash, then either no one is listening, or we are not actually challengeing unfair cultural norms in any effective way. It we know that racism is a norm then we have to expect a backlash when we challenge that norm – when we get that backlash, it is small eveidence we are doing something right.

    I look at sexism in much of the same way…. if you are challenging sexist norms in the right way, you are going to get a lot of irrational misinformed responses – after all it would not be a problem if most people did not agree with the norm. So my mark of at least doing something rightm when challenging culturem is the cultural flak you have to deal with – if you get little to no flak that is the first piece of evidence that you may be doing something the wrong way.

    So… when any one tells me that they get litle to less backlash when they talk about racism than sexism… then my first thought is that they are probably talking about it in a meaningless way. It takes no effort to say the KKK are in the wrong… it takes effort to point out that white people in particular because of privielge issues are impacted by hidden racial biases the most, and as such act really racist a lot of the time. It takes effort to keep that stance and challange the norm of this “post racial society.

    In the case of sexism… I think the people here, when talking about sexual harrasment, have been getting a huge backlash because you all hit a sore spot in culture. You hit the exact spot where a lot of sexist garbage is still being validated and you challenged it in a meaningful way that forced people to question the norms they have internalized. The result is cultural flak.

    The way racism is talked about these days among the privleged and even among some misinformed people of color is most often utterly wrong, I think this “post racial” culture that people like Obama like to pay lipservice to plays a role in obscuring the issue of racism, and ensures a productive and hard conversation never really ensues… instead we are all stuck condeming easy things like the KKK, like the Zimmermans of the world (though not that easy this time around… facebook is awash with racism right now) and not discussing the things that actually hit poeples buttons like institutionalized racism that made the laws that kill poeple of color possible.

    The way you all talk about sexism is the way it is supposed to be talked about, it is suposed to hit buttons, spposed to challenge culture, and supposed to produce so much cultural flak that makes people want to stop talking about sexism. It also does not have this obsticle – as far as I am aware – of a meanstream “post-sexist america” nothing like post racial america where presidents go out of their way to tell black people to not have excuses anymore. It is a different phenomenon. A phenomenon that is so widespread that it even impacted a supreme court dicussion – the post racial language in that discusison is disgusting.

    In regards to sexual harrasment, I think the flak comes from the fact that there is a lot of blatent sexism when it comes to gender roles. The way men and women are taught to interact with each other is an issue lots of people have…. and these ingrained sexist values are being challenged when you talked about sexual harrasment. As such it rubes cultural norms the wrong way, rubs people the wrong way, and as they try to defend their cultural norms… you get out all these shtty sexist ideas that come out the woodwork and lets you know you got a lot of work ahead of you to change minds. You begin to see lots of sexist ideas that poeple have ingrained in themselves and you are disgusted by it. Yet it must be done to change their minds, and it means you are doing something right.

    On particular to this issue, I also think it has to do with the ways males are tought to communicate their ideas… always sounding authoritative and aggressive (I am no different).. and since more of the flak will originate with people who have internalized the values you challanged the most, in this case the privileged males internalized it the most, you are going to get flak from males, and its going to be in a way that is very aggressive and violent.

    When I talk about racism… I get much of the same irrational responses, mainly from white poeple, that many of you get when you talk about sexism from MRA’s. Which one is more ingrained and more difficult to talk about? It is an interesting question I have talked about with a few poeple…. What I think though is that the more you challange some normative unfair norm, the more you get a backlash. The bigger the backlash, I think means, the better job you are doing.

    I hope this did not some off as some silly lecture… I just wanted to share some thoughts I had about that one spot in the article that rubed me the wrong way a bit.

  6. The Lone Apple says

    I will give a practical solution to one of the reasons men get angry at this topic. Mind you, “practical” doesn’t mean ethical or moral. My solution is that men who have no way of normal socialization should simply pay for sex. Problems solved. They get a need met and then they can go on their merry way until they need it met again. It’s obvious that these men have no desire to be emotionally involved with any woman in a real or meaningful way. Why not just scratch that itch (it’ll probably be cheaper in the long run to just pay for the act) and be done with it.

  7. badgersdaughter says

    Not sure what those two topics have in common that other social justice issues don’t, though.

    Simple, whether the commenter/troll deems the speaker a “fuckable” object rather than a human to be interacted with like other people who they consider human. It’s similar to people who say “I think all women are attractive” when they really unconsciously define women as “all attractive women”, and somehow define women who they think are unattractive as “not really who I’m talking about when I say ‘women’”.

  8. says

    a) I follow Popehat on Twitter, why am I just now reading his blog. Shame on me.

    b) The comments start out pretty good. I especially liked this one from Hypozeuxis

    A comment in yet another discussion of this same theme pointed out that the “poor social skills” excuse is not an explanation if the same people are aware enough not to make similar comments to (or take similar actions against) female cops, reporters, receptionists in busy public buildings, etc.

    There’s a huge difference between “not knowing it’s wrong” and “knowing you can get away with it”.

  9. xyz says

    I have to disagree that racial issues are discussed with less vehemence than the issue of sexual harassment. Maybe that’s the case in the communities Popehat frequents, though.

    What he’s seeing is the typical anger of people who are slowly realizing they’re losing an entitlement they thought they would always get to have. They really thought that they would never have to listen to what women have to say on the subject. They figured we didn’t have a point of view at all, that we were just objects to be acted upon. Some of the more conscientious people who freak out about harassment discussions resent what they see as being asked to go back and audit their behavior to see if they had made mistakes they weren’t yet aware of. They have a lot invested in seeing themselves as good people with correct opinions, and they are used to every conversation being about them. Some of the nastier ones freak out because their cover has been blown.

  10. says

    Not sure exactly where the anger is coming from, but I am pretty sure it’s the same disproportionate and disturbed anger that’s driving the Taliban’s vicious crackdown on women and even little girls; and the same anger that’s driving the Texas Taliban’s junior-high-level meanness here at home. Whatever it is, it seems so universal that I strongly suspect it’s coming from some part of our most basic hardwiring, and requires the full strength and vigilance of a civilized society and rational education to keep it under control 24/7.

  11. Scr... Archivist says

    I agree with John-Henry Beck @3 that “Kasper” in the Popehat comments is on to something. However, I would put it more in terms of instrumentalism than desire.

    I would ask if some misogyny is expressed differently from things like racism because of how personal it is.

    Americans who grew up in the last few decades don’t have much experience with Black maids and porters (etcetera), and popular culture steered away from those stereotypes long ago. There are still racist depictions in mass media, but they aren’t those kinds of personal service roles. A white kid might adore a black sports star, or feel something emotional from the work of a black musician or singer, but these aren’t direct personal encounters. That kid might also racistly expect that black people are overwhelmingly pimps and drug dealers, but that’s different from having grown up relying on a particular daily domestic power- and service-arrangement with “the help”.

    But that arrangement still persists with regards to women. It’s what their mothers did for them, or were “supposed” to do for them. Those domestic service roles are what women are “for”, according to the expectations of sexists. The lesson they learned in childhood is that women are instruments.

    This is well before sexual desire adds its complications. Our society still has different expectations of women and men when it comes to parenting, and it is not easy to buck these expectations. Kids absorb these expectations, too.

    It appears to be a mistake to expect younger generations to be more egalitarian when it comes to sex and gender roles, and this may be explained in part by how much has not changed in the last few decades. The older misogynists on the Internet probably came of age before or during Second Wave Feminism. They’re just throwbacks. But the younger sexists came of age during the backlash, in the eighties and nineties. (Hell, even the seventies saw a huge amount of pushback.)

    Another factor I wonder about is segregation. Is there a lot of sex segregation in grammar school and middle school, as kids are learning about differences between people and also forming their own sense of identity? Is there enough exclusion for boys to grow up thinking that girls are an alien species that just aren’t capable (or aren’t even interested in) “guy things”? Is there enough Othering that these little lords of the flies develop identities of masculinity that are destructive to themselves and those around them?

    These are just quarter-educated guesses on my part. If these questions have already been researched, I’d love to hear of any recommended papers.

  12. says

    This is one of those subjects I feel less comfortable than usual throwing out conjectures on.

    That said: I think part of this is intrinsic to the dynamics of hierarchy. The (evil) genius of hierarchy is it tells you, more or less, hey, you get bossed by X, you get to boss Z, so it works out for you, more or less. In the case of the standard issue male prole (or male who just figures he’s a prole because he’s got no idea how good he’s got it relative to a lot of people he mostly doesn’t ever notice), it’s: ya gotta do what the boss says, what the priest says the god says, what the cop says, but in your own own home, you get to say what goes… And no, you don’t get droit du seigneur, exactly, and watch whose wife you touch if he’s bigger than you, but women you believe are not spoken for by the boss, hey, those are fair game. Do as you wish. One of the few perks, pal…

    So being told those rules are changing, that’s like wait, they’re taking something away. That’s my birthright. That’s mine. There’s this bitter sense of entitlement about it, and I think in a lot of people a stubborn sense that it’s fair enough; I played by the rules, put up with a lot of crap from others above me, stop changing the game, here. No fair. I get lorded over, I get to lord it over someone else. There’s people over me; so now who’s below if it’s not women?

    I say part. I think the attitude in some who know damned well they’re not prole is probably a slightly different beast. But a lot of the stuff you see online, and in those angry young fundamentalists, I think it’s very much that attitude.

    Venturing further out in to okay I don’t really know this, I do suspect humans are kinda prone to this. Or a lot of us are, at the very least. Dominance and hierarchy, if we’re not actually wired for them, we sure do seem to latch on hard. And this has been the deal for a very long time in a lot of our societies; hierarchy stabilized in part by this notion that hey, if you play your part and know your place, you get to push someone else around, lucky you.

    I think it’s going to be really hard to overturn, going to take decades. That flashes of hostility like this and backlashes like this are happening, it’s not surprising at all, really. Pointing out to someone raised from childhood seeing a particular sort of implicit arrangement, telling them look, that’s got to change, it’s harder said than done even if they do see the sense of it logically (which you can’t so much count on, either).

    So far, of course, this is mostly generalizable to a lot of power relationships. There’s more in the sex one, I think, confounding it; things like the fact that men are taught in some cultures at least that sex is ‘dirty’ and desire thus a kind of weakness, that’s part of the whole messy business. Turning sex into a conquest, a sport, an expression of their power, and the woman not so much an equal partner as just a fuck, prey, a thing to take out your energies on, that’s one of the ways they react. But this is probably all 101 level stuff somewhere…

    I do keep thinking of it, though, reading the venom, when I’ve the stomach. These are bitter people, and there’s also something very frightened and something infantilized about them. There’s this very cartoonish view of sex, of women as some other, nymphos and sluts and manipulators and how dare they make us want them so bad and then turn us down or how dare they be ugly; what good is that to anyone? Aren’t they just supposed to be here for us to fuck and push around?

    That’s the rambling impression. It’s probably been done. it’s probably been noticed before. But anyway.

  13. culuriel says

    If anyone brings up blatant disrespect for boundaries and doing something about it to prevent it in the future, those who are being criticized (and mocked, I’ve done that), immediately control the dialog by overreacting. Being loud, and declaring that normal, though awkward, behavior will now also be banned, and that anyone who wants protection from sexual harassment or consequences for harassers is a radical feminazi trying to control everyone, sets the tone for the whole dialog. Those who want boundaries enforced have to waste time trying to allay these fake fears to neutral observers, and bring the discussion down to the five year old level the harassers are at. By provoking people arguing for decent behavior into stooping to their level, harassers make those who want positive change look like the bad guys. Don’t play their game. Ignore them. Just speak to the neutral audience, usually conference organizers, and stress that you’re not banning anything at a conference that people shouldn’t do in public anyway. Provokers/Harassers can just get an “try to contribute something constructive to the discussion” notice, and no other attention.

  14. kevinalexander says

    I think that bad Jim and others have it right. Some people just don’t get that they are doing something wrong so it looks like a fight challenge to have it pointed out.
    I stopped for a burger and beer last week but I couldn’t get into the game on the TV because the guy at the bar down from me would not let up on the poor woman behind the bar. There was nothing mean or abusive about it it was just a constant stream of ‘Hey you’re cute. When do you get off work?’ That sort of thing.
    When she came over to ask if I needed anything I asked her if she would like me to have a word with him. She looked startled and said ‘God No! It will just set him off. Let him finish his beer and go.’
    He had no clue that what he had been doing all his life was wrong and the wise woman knew what would happen if anyone pointed it out to him. It’s kind of like the convulsions that we went through and are going through to get mainstream racism fixed.

  15. says

    Mildred:

    Aaaaand the comments thread demonstrates his point beautifully.

    Ken White is a libertarian, as best I can tell, catering to a libertarian crowd. He gets the comments he deserves.

    I’m questioning why on some issues — say, race — incoherent basement-stinking fury is relegated to places like Stormfront.

    Uh-huh. Then again it’s of a piece with the cluelessness of this post. Because what the internet really needed were more privileged white dudes weighing in on the Martin case.

  16. says

    I’m going with “testosterone poisoning”.

    I think we ignore the biology way too blithely.

    I’m not saying that “poor men can’t help themselves”.

    I’m saying the biological imperative is pretty darn powerful and even highly self-aware men fall into traps when they’re led by the ‘little head’ and not the ‘big head’. And for the “average Joe”, well…they haven’t even begun to think about it from a non-narcissistic empathetic perspective that considers the wants and needs of the woman.

    And when men involve themselves in the issue — worse. There’s a female to be “won” and each and every man who gets in the way of “winning” is an enemy.

    Biology. We’re animals. No surprise when we act exactly like animals.

  17. Anthony K says

    I’m going with “testosterone poisoning”.

    I think we ignore the biology way too blithely.

    I’m not saying that “poor men can’t help themselves”.

    I’m saying the biological imperative is pretty darn powerful and even highly self-aware men fall into traps when they’re led by the ‘little head’ and not the ‘big head’. And for the “average Joe”, well…they haven’t even begun to think about it from a non-narcissistic empathetic perspective that considers the wants and needs of the woman.

    And when men involve themselves in the issue — worse. There’s a female to be “won” and each and every man who gets in the way of “winning” is an enemy.

    Biology. We’re animals. No surprise when we act exactly like animals.

    That’s a load of bullshit.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, I think it’s this exact narrative, bullshit as it is, that’s part of the problem. Like, you are aware that women like to fuck too, right, and they’re not just the stuck-up gatekeepers of the sex only men are evolved to want?

  18. says

    I mean fck, look at the Trayvon case… is anyone really going to tell me that a discussion of modern racism does noy spark these wierd aggressive and disgusting backlash from a lot of privleged folk in society?

    If anyone needs an example of “disproportionate and disturbed anger” in discussions of race issues, just look at the “stand your ground” laws that came into play in that case. They’ve made “disproportionate and disturbed anger” the law of the land!

  19. A. Noyd says

    dezn_98 (#5)

    I think the idea that a discussion of racism attracts less backlash than sexual harrasment is mistaken. … I think that, from this, it logically follows that, if you are not actually challenging any cultural norms, then you will see no cultural backlash.

    Yeah, I always cringe when I see people talking as if critical discussions about racism and white privilege don’t get the same level of backlash. Not seeing it doesn’t mean it’s not there. I’m white, but I follow a lot of race-related blogs on Tumblr. When people are called out for racism they overreact pretty much the same way as when they’re called out for sexism. Many of the exact same arguments, even. Like, “You’re too emotionally involved to think about this rationally.”

    It also does not have this obsticle – as far as I am aware – of a meanstream “post-sexist america” nothing like post racial america where presidents go out of their way to tell black people to not have excuses anymore.

    I think it is there for sexism, though, as you say, not to the same extent. That “why haven’t you succeeded when we’re all equal now” denial of glass ceilings and other obstacles is definitely there. But it does seem like people are more willing to pretend to be “color blind” than “gender blind.” Even if they’re trying not to see women as inferior, they’ll pull some separate-but-equal gender-essentialist bullshit. A good number of feminists buy into this and devote themselves to getting our innate feminine qualities esteemed on the same level as men’s* rather than challenging whether they’re innate in the first place.

    ………
    *I do think feminine-coded qualities deserve equal esteem, but that doesn’t require the assumption that they’re immutably linked to one gender or the other.

  20. thascius says

    @17 I think blaming it on testosterone is a copout. Furthermore, as it was pointed out on another blog recently women can be harassers too. I think men do it a lot more often, but that’s not because we poor men are incapable of helping ourselves. We are taught from earliest childhood that in male-female interactions the men are the initiators, the aggressors, that women are supposed to be sexless madonnas, thus women face a lot more social stigma from behaving as harassers than men do. Most workplaces have sexual harassment policies. Unless they really are unemployed and living in their parents’ basements, probably most of the men shrieking the loudest about harassment policies at conventions are perfectly capable of living within similar policies every working day of their lives.
    As to why such policies get such a virulent response-I think part of it may be an echo chamber effect. Sites such as a voice for (whiny, entitled) men bring together lots of people who reinforce to each other how we are all living under a feminist tyranny and if a man looks at a woman wrong she cries rape and he goes to jail and other such nonsense about how cis-gendered (straight, white) men are the most oppressed people in the world. The rest of us wonder what planet they’re from when they show up on comment threads spewing that nonsense, but if you surround yourself with people telling you up is down and black is white over and over maybe you start to believe it.

  21. dezn_98 says

    #21 A. Noyd:

    I think it is there for sexism, though, as you say, not to the same extent. That “why haven’t you succeeded when we’re all equal now” denial of glass ceilings and other obstacles is definitely there. But it does seem like people are more willing to pretend to be “color blind” than “gender blind.” Even if they’re trying not to see women as inferior, they’ll pull some separate-but-equal gender-essentialist bullshit. A good number of feminists buy into this and devote themselves to getting our innate feminine qualities esteemed on the same level as men’s* rather than challenging whether they’re innate in the first place.

    I agree there are many objections raised to feminists that “it is not like that anymore” or “this is not the 50′s”… but I think it is an all together different animal when it comes to race relations. I think that in regards to sexism, part of this type of sexism denialism stems more from a false belief in a meritocracy, and, as you say, these odd “biological differences” that are supposed to undercut actual existing inequalities for women.

    You are right to say some feminist have this view.. I have argue with a view old school feminists who do not like the way the third-wave feminist movement is moving. She said something to the tune of the income gap being there because women “chose” to be child bearers and thus are choosing to stop being “career women” as such the income gap is a natural outcome – not due to sexism. I had to argue with her for hours about this society putting the pressure on women to be the child bearers and why it is unfair that men do not feel pressure to stop their careers to take care of children…. Eventually I had to pull up a study that ran all the numbers on possible variables in the income gap – it included the variable of women who stopped their careers to become full time mothers. What that study found was that the income gap still existed despite accounting for such a variable… the conclusion was that this gap can only be caused by sexism not “freedom of choice” some conservative feminists used to try and wash away the glass ceiling effect. So these “innate qualities” are a serious issue and are the only type of objections that I think actually come close the the “post racial america” phenomenon that is at present.

    However… I still think the “post racial america” is a social phenomenon that is so well entrenched and developed in this country that it makes it difficult to have an actually legitimate conversation about race. Too many people are “color blind” and refuse to take the issue of racism seriously because of it. It is so bad that a growing number of minorities – who have high economic status and thus not as vulnerable to racism as poor people of color – are starting to believe in this myth of this post racist america. More and more people of color have been fooled by propaganda and are starting to reject social programs like affirmative action because of it. That is how you get people like Herman Cain and Obama condemning the black community for actually attempting to talk about race… and being used as tokens to undercut legitimate racial inequality issues that are present in america.

    The post racial america phenomenon is so big that recently there are certain sections of sociology dedicated to studying modern racism through this angle. It really is a different beast… I can find no equivalent to this type of rhetoric in feminism, some things come close but that are not as pervasive as these post racial ideas are – and as far as I can tell, not as damaging the the movement. The post racial ideology is really starting to kill movements about racial equality in america and most activists are becoming aware and try to debunk and address issues of color-blindness because of the pervasiveness of the idea and the damage it does to the country.

    That is why talking about racism in america had to be done in a very different way than when talking about sexism if you actually want to challenge norms and force that backlash – so people can listen. Anyway.. I don’t want to hijack the blog to talk about race. i just had to say something to that part of the article.

    I think though, back on topic, the idea that the type of blackish you get from mostly men, when talking about sexual harassment policies, is only “odd” if you view people as somehow very rational. I think this reaction, the irrational backlash, actually makes sense. You are bound to get this type of irrational hatred when going against norms – it makes sense when you put it in a bigger cultural picture. Over estimating the rationality of an individual often gives rose colored lenses when you attempt to talk about cultural problems… you expect a rational reaction and when you do not get it, you are disturbed, disgusted, and disenfranchised. This works to silence most of use because we get tired of the irrational backlash….

    However,I think if you view it differently… it can give you strength to keep speaking out. If you give people enough credit that individual they can be rational and can have their minds changed… this can give you hope. We also have to, I think, understand that culture impacts all of us in ways that make us internalize values as our own, and when our values are challenged we do have strong emotional reactions to it. Everyone has a strong emotional reaction when a core belief or value is challenged, and many times this emotional reaction can make one irrational. As such, we also give people credit in a different way.. a bigger way, in that as a person that exists in a culture, we are naturally going to defend a culture because of an irrational attachment to it – regardless if such cultural values have a rational base to begin with.

    With this view, we can understand that it does not matter how rational the individual is, they are still influence by cultural pressures and thus will likely act to defend cultural norms… so when someone irrationally goes after a person speaking up against culture, we can understand this is part of the mechanism of change that must take place. (We also realize that we too are vulnerable and this serves as a self check for us.)

    What this view does accomplish.. I think.. is a “thicker skin” to stay in the game and continue to speak out. You have realistic expectations of people to push back at you, even if you are doing the right thing – yet you also have hope for change. With this view, it makes people much more likely to put things in perspective and keep speaking up… instead of giving in to cultural oppression and shutting up because they can not take the flak they will inevitably get. It helps minorities like myself and the bloggers here prepare for the cultural flak that will come when they do it right – and although this is often not enough, it is a good start to staying solid and staying in the fight.

  22. Goblinman says

    I’ve also been trying to figure out what the hell is going on with this.

    I think it has something to do with the fact that other social issues (like racism) arise in large part from people just not having much interaction with the minority group. Once the group starts managing to make itself part of the mainstream, and getting people familiar with the fact that they are actually people (surprise!) the prejudice diminishes.

    Women are different, though. They aren’t actually a minority. Everyone has plenty of experience interacting with women. There’s something different happening here–the structure behind the prejudice is different, and it’s not breaking down as easily over time.

    My personal theory is that it’s all about the men: Men being pushed by other men to be as “manly” as possible.

    A real man must always be in charge. A real man never submits to other men (especially not sexually), and definitely never submits to women. But no matter how much power men have over women, they can’t stop themselves from being attracted to women, and that little bit of power that women have–even though they have no control over that power–means that no amount of power that men have over women can ever EVER be enough.

    Hence burqas.

    It doesn’t stop there, though. There’s a whole mess of other ideas (memes, if you will) that are mixed up with how men are encouraged to view women (and each other). I’ve seen it referred to as the “Cult of Masculinity”. I don’t know if that’s an official philosophical term, but it fits.

    It needs to be ripped to shreds.

  23. says

    It really is a different beast… I can find no equivalent to this type of rhetoric in feminism, some things come close but that are not as pervasive as these post racial ideas are – and as far as I can tell, not as damaging the the movement.

    I think you’re mistaken here. The idea that we’re living in a post sexism world is extremely pervasive. It’s been around since at least the late seventies. It has resulted in feminism being seen as a dirty word and a denigrated concept, even among those it seeks to fight for. It has resulted in the “chill girl” phenomenon of women saying that women who speak out against sexism and misogyny are engaged in professional victimhood. I would say that more than half of the energy and resources of current feminism are going into trying to convince people that it’s still relevant, rather than opposing and mitigating the actual misogyny.

  24. says

    Really? Biology has nothing to do with it? Nothing? Zip? Nada? Bupkis?

    Talk about bullshit.

    We’re talking about the “prime directive” here. The thing without which there is no species.

    Again, not saying that biology cannot be moderated through reason and acculturation. But we haven’t even begun to try those things. Not even close. And refusing to recognize that there is a biological component to the problem only serves to make matters worse.

    We’re animals. Small wonder we act like animals.

  25. says

    But we haven’t even begunj to try those things. Not even close.

    Oh, for chrissake. Yes, we have. It’s called culture. And a lot of the time it militates in making matters worse, not better, because cultures can be and often are oppressive.

    Try reading this, instead of just pulling your “science” out of your ass. And read some damn sociology, while you’re at it. Your “common sense” counts for shit here.

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