Monday, April 8, 2013

Yes--That's Sexist and Yes, I Have to Call You on It

So right on the heels of my Letter to the Editor, I also have this to say (though, I wrote this before the letter to the editor came out and had to reschedule its release here).

I have a rather undeveloped policy about how I deal with things I take issue with on Facebook or other social media in which I am connected to people.  What little I understand of it though is that it starts with the assumption that if a person has chosen to virtually connect with me, then they have chosen to accept the fact that I am an active user of social media who seeks out conversation and meaning.  By accepting or requesting and continuing said connection, they recognize that I'm likely to engage with those things that grab my attention and to which I have some knowledge and/or stake in the conversation (and granted sometimes I have too much of latter without enough of the former--but that's a post for another time).

So when someone I'm connected with on Facebook, posted the following.  It certainly got me a wee bit angered and ready to say something.  In fact, it annoyed me enough to write a blog post about it.



Oh the many things wrong with this.  Particularly, because it was created on or around March 27/28 and it comes in the aftermath of the Stuebenville rape conviction and the various backlashes.   The many, many, many things wrong with this.  So much of this wreaks of a moral technopanic about the nature of women's behavior in public which is always easier than considering the role of the men or the system at large.

Of "Girls" and Men
So language is always an interesting thing to study and this meme is no different.  The women are all girls--even those who are married.  It may be a small or irrelevant point--obviously the page (IM So Fuckin High I can't even see u--clearly a page for chauvinistic, sexist, racist and other mad hattery) wasn't looking to be deep in any regard, but it does illustrate a disregard for women in our culture (fostered more by the 22,000+ likes and additional 1700+ shares).

A History Lesson.
I find the faux history most amazing and misinformed.  The idea of women as purely pristine and pure has never really jived with the actual history of sex, if anyone who has taken the time to study the history of sex will tell you.  In fact, the later half of the 1800s was a hotbed of sexiness with sex and sexual acts happening everywhere from dancehalls to brothels to saloons.

It annoys me when people level the supposed morals of the past to lay judgment on the present.  In most cases, these morals were nothing but myths to begin with.  It's like finding speed limit signs 100 years from now and deducing that people never drove over the speed limit--when in fact--we almost all do.

If we were to look at the late 19th century, we find that New York City had hundreds of brothels and brothels were also found in the West .  And the dance halls were filled with women exchanging drinks and gifts for favors--yes, sometimes of the sexual kind.

That's not to applaud what for many was a "choice" that wasn't a real choice (i.e. do this for survival's sake--one's own or family and loved ones) but it's to acknowledge that women were not the bastions of morality that we pretend they were.  That mentality (women's past purity or women's declining morality) contributes to continued sexism and mistreatment.  It first upholds women to traits and ideals that were never entirely true in the first place (and to which we never believe or feel that men can live up to) while also allowing for further shaming of women--another form of power and control.  That much of this is done by or for men without men having to adhere to the same spurious morals, only further illustrates the coercive power of patriarchy.

The statement that "In 1995: Girls Got Undressed for Money" is very curious and another play at shaming.  In all likelihood this is a reference to the Girls Gone Wild series (that's a link to Wikipedia-not to the actual site--and they state GGW started in 1997). But here again, the language is suggestive.  Women have been accepting money for getting undressed for thousands of years as there is ample evidence of temple prostitutes going back to the ancient world.  If the claim meant accepting money to take clothes off for a camera, they would still be wrong.  Women undressing for cash and the camera is something too that is over 100 years old.  Thus "girls" takes on a further meaning.  Girls in this sense are supposed to mean "good girls" to which prostitutes, strippers and other sex workers clearly do not fall into.  The judgment upon women to maintain their "girl" status clearly coincides with the ways in which they act as sexual beings.  Their state of undress is only for the male who (in 1880s parlance) owns her.

Facepalm indeed.
It's telling the that the last panel is a man in a state of disappointment.  First, because it seems that the meme-maker couldn't find a woman offering up herself in a state of undress on Facebook.  But also, that it gives away the bigger lie.  We put this expectation upon women, but in the end, it's typically men (or mayhaps we should use the term, "boys") that are encouraging, demanding and condemning it.  There's the perversity of it--the women are judged by the same sources of those who make the demands.  The ideas of Mulvey's "male gaze" are still relevant.

But It's Just a Joke
It's easy to shrug this off as a goofy internet meme in poor taste and saying I'm looking too much into it--take it too "literally" as the person who posted it said below.  But all memes are not the same and this one I found a bit caustic.  That we can shrug it off so easily as it so grossly represents truth, and plays into the ideas of a demoralizing society brought to us by technology and whose responsibility is placed upon women to uphold is utter rubbish.  Technology nor women contribute to the decline of society (and I continued to revoke the idea that society is in moral freefall).  If you think the moral decay of society is real, I would encourage you to read The Better Nature of Our Angels by Stephen Pinker (his TED Talk only scratches the surface) and significantly reduce the amount of "news" you watch.




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