Moaning Men of the Victorian Age: Help! Help! I’m Being Oppressed!

Some people never change. Take the Men’s Rights Movement (MRM). It’s full of men who panic as they realize they’re not actually the Kings of Creation. Women pry a tiny bit of privilege from their sweaty, grasping hands, and they shriek like toddlers being forced to share the crayons. Unlike toddlers, they never learn to share. They just howl persecution and lie a lot in a pathetic effort to get all the power back.

Image is a cartoon of a blue man's head, wearing a beanie cap with a propeller and crying many tears. Caption says, "Feminazis stole my ice cream."

That’s these guys – try to make them share just one scoop, and they think you’ve taken ALL the ice cream. Click the image for the classic video.

They haven’t changed a bit. [Read more…]

Moaning Men of the Victorian Age: Breach of Promise Whine Needs Cheese

In our first installment, we saw how Mr. William Austin, Victorian MRA Esq., was being terribly oppressed by all those women with their miniscule hard-won rights. But he didn’t give us actual examples. He spoke in sweeping generalities that were, on the whole, pretty meaningless, especially when you contrast his problems with the actual conditions women in the 19th century faced.

Here’s the first time he stops mouthing mushy nonsense and mentions something specific: [Read more…]

The Unstoppable Force of Huxley, Darwin, and Frances Power Cobbe

Reading this book on Victorian England’s marriage laws is slow going, because I keep running into fascinating women. Mary Lyndon Shanley quotes a snippet of their work, and then I end up haring off after the source and promptly getting immersed in that instead. I made it to Chapter Two, and I did intend to get all the way to Three, but then I ran into Frances Power Cobbe. And I had to read her article “Criminals, idiots, women and minors” in its entirety. It is so full of good things that I will probably quote from it even more. The woman was a caution. She may have been an anti-vivisectionist, but she completely eviscerates the laws against married women owning their own property. She impales her opponents’ arguments on their own logic before she finishes them off with several master strokes. It’s just amazeballs.

Since we’re just past Darwin Day, I figured I’d share this bit with you. It seems appropriate. [Read more…]

Researching 19th Century Sexism with Cat, Plus Bonus Squee

Over the last couple of days, Misha’s been insisting on me making a blanket cave for her to sleep in. She likes to pick random inconvenient times, like when I’m asleep, or about to grab the computer and start typing. I could tell her no, but snuggling with a warm kitty is not to be turned down. I mean, honestly, look at how adorable she is.

Image shows Misha lying with her cheek on her paws. A bit of my red shirt is visible beside her. The blanket is overhead.

Snoozin in teh warms.

 

She’s actually preventing me from avoiding research, because that’s pretty much all I can do when I’m having to make a cave roof with one arm. I might be able to type, but it would be slow and complicated. And I have a 19th century MRAnt to dissect. [Read more…]

Bro Country

Did I ever tell you that the first karaoke song I ever sang was a country song? It was. My friends and I went to a karaoke bar, where I was like, “I don’t sing karaoke but I’ll drink alcohol and cheer for you,” but then they were like, “Let’s do Dixie Chicks!” and they dragged me out to their car so we could listen to “Goodbye, Earl” ten thousand times so I would know the words. So my first karaoke experience was all about misandry*, possibly foreshadowing my current life as a feminist. I figured this event would not kill my metal cred because the Dixie Chicks had said mean things about George Warmonger Bush, and also I could say my friends made me do it.

I actually used to be a country music fan before I started doing the gateway drugs of Petshop Boys, Aerosmith, and Bon Jovi. Back in the day, I owned a lot of Juice Newton and George Strait albums, and loved Alabama and the Oak Ridge Boys, and thanks to David Allan Coe and my own research, I knew that a country song was not perfect unless it included mama, trains, trucks, prison, or getting drunk. I first learned about tequila from Shelly West, although I couldn’t figure out who Jose Cuervo was. I ended up thinking he must be the cowboy she woke up next to, and she just forgot his name. Yes, I was a somewhat sheltered child. Or possibly my parents were too busy laughing to explain… [Read more…]

MRAs Were Pathetic Whining Liars 117 Years Ago, Too

The older I get, the more I tend to agree with the author of Ecclesiastes: nope, nothing new under the sun. Even the howling manbabies of the Men’s Rights Movement are just retreads of the same old tire. As long are there are women demanding equality, there will be men whining, “But what about teh menz??? Help, help, men are being oppressed!” A few words are changed, a few flourishes added, a sad trombone appended to the end, but it’s still the same ol’ song.

Travel back to me to the year of our Lord (who is a MAN, obvs) 1898, when some poor anonymous New South Wales reporter braved undiluted inanity in order to describe the Men’s Rights Activists of that day and age. You may recognize the tune: [Read more…]

Course Corrections: The Manager is Not a “Gal”

I’m getting better at not keeping my mouth shut when seeing everyday sexism. I used to fume and glower and stomp outside for a cigarette, but didn’t want to open the can o’ worms. I don’t have those options now. Oh, I can still fume and glower like a champion, but since I quit smoking, I haven’t got a cigarette filter between my brain and my mouth. Also, I became a full-on feminist, and so I say shit.

You know what? It hasn’t gone at all badly. [Read more…]

Rape Apologia in Agatha Christie’s Nemesis

It’s that time o’ year again when seasonal depression settles over me like the thick gray clouds of a Seattle winter, and for some reason, this causes an irresistible urge to read old British detective fiction. There’s nothing more comforting than to curl up in bed with a warm, purring kitty and revisit these familiar tales. Every time, I notice a detail I missed in the other ten thousand readings.

Of course, now that I’ve become one of the dreaded Social Justice Warriors™, I also notice problematic elements that escaped me during prior, rather more unenlightened, readings. There’s a lot of casual racism, xenophobia, classism, and sexism infesting these stories, although their authors often weren’t as obnoxious about it as some of their contemporaries. Still. They’re definitely a product of their times, and their times saw nothing wrong with many of the things that horrify us today.

I’m in the midst of Nemesis, one of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple novels. She’s often rather hard on women, a tendency I suspect comes from being a public woman in a man’s world, in addition to the intense cultural sexism. Nemesis reflects an elderly woman’s view of changing times, when younger women were freeing themselves from certain shackles and beginning to explore things like having careers and enjoying casual sex. I’m not expert enough in Agatha Christie’s personal biography to discern how much of the attitudes within the book stem from her own views, and how much is her being faithful to the character. So we’ll just treat the character as a reflection of cultural attitudes and leave the author’s deeply-held convictions for another day.

A paragraph leapt out at me, one which had escaped my notice during other readings. One gets immersed in the story world, and takes certain things for granted, quite often awful things (such as the many things we’ll forgive in the protagonists that we’d abhor in the villains). Characters can say things we’d find outrageous in our normal settings, but which fit with the time and mores of their story so well that they don’t stand out particularly, especially not when we’re reading for the mystery. But when the mystery’s solved, and we’re familiar with the characters and the world the author’s placed them in, and when we’re a little older and possibly wiser and have lots more practice seeing certain patterns, aspects pop suddenly, garish and unavoidable.

I hadn’t seen all the rape culture apologia when I first read this book, but now, it’s unmistakable. See, for instance, this paragraph, as Professor Wanstead is telling Miss Marple why he thinks a man imprisoned for murder isn’t the killer, despite the fact he’s a rapist:

“That told against him, of course. Not in the jury’s mind, because of course they did not hear about that until after the judge’s summing up, but certainly in the judge’s mind. It told against him, but I made a few enquiries myself afterwards. He had assaulted a girl. He had conceivably raped her, but he had not attempted to strangle her and in my opinion–I have seen a great many cases which come before the Assizes–it seemed to me highly unlikely that there was a very definite case of rape. Girls, you must remember, are far more ready to be raped nowadays than they used to be. Their mothers insist, very often, that they should call it rape. The girl in question had had several boyfriends who had gone further than friendship. I did not think it counted very greatly as evidence against him.” [emphasis mine]

Here we have rape culture in action in what I’m assuming is roughly mid-20th century Britain. There’s the idea that if a woman enjoys sex, you can’t rape her. There’s the insistence that rape is really just regretted sex. There’s the idea that most reports of rape are false, and that consensual sex is reported as rape just to get the woman out of trouble. Throughout the book, rape is treated as a myth, a tale told by girls to get boys in trouble.

Image is a cover of Nemesis with the words RAPE CULTURE INSIDE imprinted in red.

It’s not jarring to me to run into that attitude in a book from the perspective of an elderly person during the sexual revolution, written by a woman who was elderly herself. I expect that sort of thing, and I’m willing to put up with it in older stories. What dismays me is that attitudes haven’t substantially changed. We still hear the same fucking apologia for rapists. We still hear the same slut-shaming shit. We’re still told there’s real rape, which is a terrible crime that is done to virgins mostly by strangers and involves force, but most things ladies call “rape” is just self-serving lies told by total sluts in order to destroy men. A woman’s sexual history is still considered relevant in rape cases. We’re nearly half a century on from when this book was published, and yet we haven’t significantly advanced the mainstream cultural conversation around rape.

I hope, by the time I’m an old woman boring people with back in my day stories, these attitudes about rape will be considered just as horrifying to mainstream folk as casual denigrations of Jews is. I want us to cringe in horror and embarrassment over these rape culture mores, just as much as we wince in disgust every time the n-word pops up in our turn-of-the-last-century fiction. I want people to struggle to get past the casual sexism and misogyny, have a very hard time overlooking the anti-woman attitudes even in fiction written by a woman, rather than blithely accept it or barely notice it because, really, it’s not all that different from the way things are now.

And I think we’ll get there, despite all the menz screaming about feminazis and manginas. Feminism is here to stay, and will eventually get through enough of the thick skulls to allow the revolutionary idea that all rape is wrong, no matter the victim’s sexual history or fashion choices or state of intoxication or any other favorite excuse of rapists and their allies, to go mainstream. It’s just that I wish we’d got there a lot bloody sooner.

Why Everyday Sexism Matters: A Personal Tale

Culture taught me to ignore women.

I wouldn’t have put it that way, back in the day. I’d have told you that the reason I didn’t read many female authors or didn’t know about many female scientists or like many female artists or musicians was because they just weren’t as good. I’d point defensively to the few women on my shelves or in my CD collection and say, look! I’m not prejudiced or anything, I’ve got women there, it’s just that there aren’t that many doing stuff I like.

Sound familiar? It’s the cry of every dudebro and unique-chick™ out there. [Read more…]