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Archive for the ‘Sexism’ Category

Recently, I read an article on Huffington Post about how women “have to” pay more for female versions of common products.  Several women left comments pointing out that they circumvent this sexist pricing system by sensibly buying the male versions of the product093c0505b4debbb1224b4a693898ce04.

But none of the comments asked the obvious question of why do we need separate versions of such mundane products for men and women in the first place?

Why do we need gender-bombed products that “match” and call attention to our sex?  Do manufacturers of these mundane products think that people need constant little reminders of what sex they are?  Using the pictured example, did the razor manufacturer think that women might try to shave their faces rather than their legs if they use a blue razor (that they paid less for)?

In a larger sense, why does everything we do, think, say, feel, use, or express have to correlate to or “match” our sex?  Why does society think we need these constant reminders of what sex we are?

For the majority of activities people do in their everyday lives, their sex is no more relevant to those activities than their race or nationality is, so why the need for all the specifically gendered versions of what are neutral items?

One could argue that offering pink-ified versions of many products is simply another choice  that appeals to different tastes and personalities.  To some extent, this is true, but these products are not simply another choice among many others; they are specifically marketed to women only.  Isn’t it funny how ALL women are supposed to just looooooooove pink things?  And that men aren’t?

For adults, who should have the maturity to see stereotyping for what it is and are able to choose whatever products they want, however colored or labeled, without questioning their womanhood or manhood, such marketing is mostly relatively harmless, if redundant.  That is, save for the discriminatory pricing, which women can easily avoid by refusing to buy the “ladies’ auxiliary” versions.

And it would seem that many people do, indeed, get it, if the snarky reviews left on Amazon for the product below are any indication.   As one reviewer said

r-BIC-PEN-FOR-HER-WOMEN-REVIEWS-large570“Finally! For years I’ve had to rely on pencils, or at worst, a twig and some drops of my feminine blood to write down recipes (the only thing a lady should be writing ever). I had despaired of ever being able to write down said recipes in a permanent manner, though my men-folk assured me that I ‘shouldn’t worry yer pretty little head.’ But, AT LAST! Bic, the great liberator, has released a womanly pen that my gentle baby hands can use without fear of unlady-like callouses and bruises. Thank you, Bic!”

But it becomes less funny or harmless when toys, particularly those previously marketed as sex-neutral, are now offered in special, pink and purple versions just to girls.  Suddenly, the standard, original sex-neutral version has become a “boys’ toy”.

Children, whose cognitive functions are not yet fully developed, cannot see stereotyping for what it is as easily as adults can185c9df6700b9a5d80305cf58430b03e.  They are given the message that boys are regular, standard people and that girls are “other”, “different”, and “auxiliary”.

The picture to the left compares  Lego as marketed in 1981 and in 2014, using the same person in both pictures.  In 1981, the year I become a mother, non-sexist child raising was a current philosophy with progressive parents and some advertisers responded by including girls, as well as boys, in promoting standard, sex-neutral toys.

Indeed, even when I was a little kid in the 60s, before there was even a word for non-sexist child raising, Lego was not specifically marketed to boys and I enjoyed playing with them, giving nary a thought whether this toy “matched” my sex.

But, at some point, instead of simply just adding pink and purple bricks to the standard Legos, Lego introduced a separate girls’ version, ending their previous marketing of the standard version for all kids.  Instead of fostering the creativity which lies within each child, regardless of sex, the current marketing strategy sends a regressive message to children about fitting in to stereotyped gender roles.

As Rachel Giordano, the model for the 1981 ad, said in 2014:

“In 1981, LEGOs were ‘Universal Building Sets’ and that’s exactly what they were…for boys and girls. Toys are supposed to foster creativity. But nowadays, it seems that a lot more toys already have messages built into them before a child even opens the pink or blue package. In 1981, LEGOs were simple and gender-neutral, and the creativity of the child produced the message. In 2014, it’s the reverse: the toy delivers a message to the child, and this message is weirdly about gender.”

She went on to say when asked what is wrong with a separate girls’ version of Lego:

“Because gender segmenting toys interferes with a child’s own creative expression. I know that how I played as a girl shaped who I am today. It contributed to me becoming a physician and inspired me to want to help others achieve health and wellness. I co-own two medical centers in Seattle. Doctor kits used to be for all children, but now they are on the boys’ aisle. I simply believe that they should be marketed to all children again, and the same with LEGOs and other toys.”

As Lori Day concluded in her article:

Let’s give all children a world of play that includes all colors and all possibilities, and let’s market it that way. What do we have to lose, besides stereotypes?

Indeed.  Along with reviving non-sexist child raising, if children are given all sorts of toys, not specifically marketed to one sex or the other, they will be better equipped as adults to see stereotypes for what they are when confronted with them in advertising and in society in general and to make choices according to their own personalities.

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Recently, on Facebook, I saw two posts on different pages that expressed a typical feminist view of women, which I find woefully naive.

Namely, both pages put forth the idea that increased female involvement in two different types of situations would have brought about a totally different and better outcome.

The first page put forth the notion that had there been more female police officers in Ferguson, Missouri during the demonstrations following the shooting of Michael Brown, the situation would have turned out much differently.

The second page posted a quote from Coretta Scott King, which expressed the idea that if just 10 percent more women voted, there would be an end to budget cuts to programs benefiting women and children.

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While I sympathize with the benign intentions of those who assert these ideas, such ideas are naive and don’t take human nature (which isn’t sex-specific) into account.

Such notions stem from the strain of feminism known as gender essentialist or “difference feminism”, best represented by the work of feminist Carol Gilligan.

In short, gender essentialist feminism agrees with conservatives that gender roles are innate, but part ways with them in asserting that stereotyped “femininity” is not inferior to stereotyped “masculinity” and is, in some ways, superior and that women should celebrate and value such differences. It also asserts that women, simply for the fact of being female, have something special and different to offer in public life than men do.

But women are not special snowflakes with superior capacity for caring, morals, or ethics. That’s a terribly heavy burden place on an entire group of people who are, at base, just as fallibly human as men are.

We are no more all alike than men are. We run the gamut of personality, character, and political opinions and are just as likely to vote against our own interests, be racist, and have a mix of character flaws and virtues, just like men do. Character and the lack thereof are not sex-linked traits.

I think the feminist Carol Tavris had a much better handle on the matter when she stated that “women are not the better sex, the inferior sex, or the opposite sex” in her 1992 book, “The Mismeasure of Woman”.

In other words, women are just as fallibly human as men are and there is very little you can reliably predict about how any individual woman will act, believe, feel, or say based on just her sex alone.  Like men, we are not generic representatives of our sex.

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(Author’s note — In the “About” section of this blog, I noted that though I’m a liberal, I am not particularly politically correct. The post that follows is an example of that assertion. Though my intent is not to offend, I know that offense will be inevitable with such a loaded topic. Such is often the price of honestly expressing one’s opinion – I can’t please everyone.

In recent news, I’ve been reading more often about pre-adolescent children who consider themselves transgender. Most such articles are about how the parents have unquestioningly accepted their child’s announcement at face value. They consider themselves as now having a child of the other sex, to the point of changing their names and presenting them in public as a member of the other sex, including at school and other places where officials records are kept.

While I applaud them for their hearts being in the right place and acknowledge that they mean well, I have serious reservations about such a response. With the caveat that, as a feminist, I’m glad these parents are not responding by making their child conform to the gender role stereotypes associated with their sex, I find it imprudent to apply the transgender label to children, which has far-reaching social implications to a child at this stage of cognitive development.

During the formative years, children go through a series of stages in their cognitive development before reaching adulthood. They cannot think and reason at the same level as adults until they are into their teens and, preschool children especially, are prone to “magical thinking”. That is, the belief that one’s own thoughts, wishes, or desires can influence the external world.

It is in recognition that full cognitive development in humans takes several years to reach that children are legally prohibited from voting, marrying, living independently, are treated differently from adults in the criminal justice system for the most part, and so on.

I can understand a child (and an adult, for that matter) not liking or being comfortable with the gender roles associated with your sex, as well as feeling more comfortable with the ones assigned to the other sex. I also sympathize with the feeling that one’s life might be easier or more comfortable if one was a member of the other sex and also sometimes wishing that one was the other sex.

Where the cognitive dissonance sets in for me is the conclusion that being uncomfortable with the gender role associated with one’s sex and preferring the one corresponding to the other sex means that one actually is that other sex trapped in the “wrong” body. This is where it becomes magical thinking. I simply cannot make that leap of faith. For me, it defies all notions of logic and common sense; it is Orwellian doublethink.

The idea that one would make the determination of whether one is male or female based on the obfuscatingly slippery definitions of “gender”, that differ from culture to culture and have not been consistent throughout history, makes no sense to me. The notion that such ideas of gender would trump the biological reality of sex, which does NOT differ from culture to culture and have been consistent throughout history, in such a determination is just ludicrous.

A big part of the problem is that, in recent years, people having been using the words “sex” and “gender” as if they are interchangeable words. They are not.

As I see it, whether one is male, female, or intersex, is firmly grounded in biology: genitalia, gonads, hormones, chromosomes, and skeletal structure.

Gender, which consists of roles, personality traits, and stylistic preferences assigned to and associated with one sex or the other, is a set of cultural affectations intended to merely emphasize and call attention to one’s sex. It is cultural window dressing that does not determine whether one is male or female in the first place.

I see the idea of transgenderism as reaching a conclusion based on the wrong emphasis. Rather than a challenge to sexism, I see it as, rather, a capitulation to it, in that they see the culturally and historically variable ideas of gender as being immutable, inherent, and necessary to one’s definition as male or female, rather than just accepting the biological reality of their sex.

Instead of becoming their own kind of man or woman, they choose to change themselves in order to fit the stereotyped role that feels more comfortable. If the shoe doesn’t fit, they conclude they must cut the foot, rather than change the shoe or dispense with shoes altogether.

I was a child who was not particularly comfortable with the female gender role and bristled at the idea of having to be “feminine”. I, too, felt it would be easier to be a boy and sometimes wished I was one.

But feelings aren’t facts. I understood that, despite my discomfort with what was expected out of females in our society when I was growing up, that I was female, like it or not.

Instead of deluding myself with magical thinking into believing that I actually was a male in a female body, I decided to play the cards I was dealt. I concluded that there was more than one way to be a woman and that I would decide what kind of woman I would be.

I ended up throwing out the entire “gender” script altogether, and just live according to my own individual personality, which incorporates traits and preferences from both stereotypes.

As I matured, I realized that what is now commonly referred to as “gender identity”, was simply my individual personality and, as such, it wasn’t tied into having a particular type of body. In other words, I don’t have a “gender identity”, I have a sex and I have a personality.

I was fortunate to have parents who loved me and didn’t have rigid ideas of how a girl “should” be. My childhood was happily spent as an untroubled tomboy and I grew up to be a straight woman who still does not have a particularly stereotypical “feminine” personality.

I think true liberation will come only when people feel free to be themselves and express their genuine personalities in whatever kind of body they were born with and it won’t matter so much to them what sex they are; they’ll be able to be happy either way.

Something to think about.

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One common tendency among many people is the unfortunate fallacy of thinking in extremes. That is, if you don’t agree with a particular point, then you must be for its polar opposite, with no room for shades of grey in between.

For instance, I remember as a young adult complaining that I had no intimate relationship with a man and talking with my sister about it. She would immediately get huffy and tell me that being alone was far preferable to living with an asshole.

Of course that is true, but I would always answer her by saying, “Are those my only two choices? Asshole or alone? Surely there are other choices in between those two extremes?”.

Another example I see often on Facebook is a type of comment that predictably appears in response to articles dealing with animal abuse. These commenters want to know why people care so much about animals when there are so many children being abused.

Their unspoken erroneous assumption is that people can care about only one issue at a time; that if you care about one issue, then you could not possibly care about the other. It apparently has never occurred to them that one can care about the abuse of animals AND children, both at the same time. For them, life is all about either/or and never both/and.

Still another example of this sort of thinking is one I see on message boards. Sometimes, a member will decide they’ve been spending too much time at the board and will decide to take a break from it. But instead of simply not visiting the board for an extended period of time, they take the drastic step of completely unsubscribing from the board and deleting their account.

Another common example of extreme, black and white thinking often happens in response when an individual woman attempts to do a non-traditional job, such as being a fire fighter, and fails.

Predictably, many people will point to her individual failure as proof positive that ALL women are unsuited to such work where, with a man, they’d just shrug and say it was his own personal failure and implied nothing at all about other men.

Thinking in extremes is dualistic, black and white thinking that does not allow for multiple possibilities or shades of grey.  It is usually a false dichotomy.

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From cradle to grave, girls and women are continually exhorted to always be attractive,  in how we look and how we act.    This goes well beyond simply attracting a romantic or sexual partner; it is something women are expected to be in every type of interaction with others

Not to be considered attractive is commonly viewed as a major faux pas for women in that we’ve failed at what some consider one of the most important mandates for our sex.  Men, on the other hand, are rarely, if ever, hectored about being attractive.

Contrary curmudgeon that I am, I have often wondered why it’s so vitally important to be attractive all the time.  Why on Earth do I need to be constantly attracting something for?  I’m not a strip of fly paper, for crap’s sake.

Most people believe that if one is not attractive, then they are, by default, repulsive, but I don’t buy that.  Surely, there is a neutral midpoint somewhere between attractiveness and repulsiveness.

Most of the time I seek neither to attract nor repel; I just want to be me and let the chips fall where they may. I don’t want to have to be always “on” all the time.

Your mileage may vary, but this is how I see it.

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In the last several days, Facebook (and other places, I’m sure) has blown up covering the Chick-fil-a story.  For the record, my own personal opinion of this story is that it’s wrong to try to ban Chick-fil-a from opening stores in certain cities, as long as they are obeying the law.  And I believe that their CEO has a right to his opinion and to use his money as he sees fit, however reprehensible  I find his opinion and the groups he donates money to.  On the other hand, in a free market society, people have every right to vote with their wallets and to spend their money elsewhere for whatever reason they choose.

But the point of this post isn’t the story itself, nor to debate the pros and cons of the matter but, rather, how this story is being covered.

As a liberal, I subscribe to several liberal pages on Facebook, which have covered this story in every detail.  I also have Facebook friends, both liberal and conservative, who have also posted links expressing their own opinions on the matter.

In my opinion, some of the links were right on, some were funny, some were of questionable taste, but there was one photo circulating at a few liberal pages that I found to be offensive and an entirely inappropriate way to defend the rights of gay people.

 
 
 

Really?  Whose bright idea was it to defend the rights of gay people by ridiculing another marginalized group that is bullied as often as gay people are — and sometimes more often?  At least the cause for gay rights is growing by leaps and bounds, despite the fact that there is still a long way to go,  Fat people, however, are still considered fair game by people of all political stripes;  it’s probably the last socially “acceptable” prejudice, gleefully indulged in by liberals and conservatives alike. As Lindy West said in her excellent article on Jezebel’s website:

No matter what you do with your life, if you are fat, people will only see fat. No matter how generous, kind, and productive you are; no matter how much you contribute to society or take care of other people; you’re just some fucking fatass whose physical laziness is only outstripped by your mental laziness. As if your butt size has some direct correlation with your moral fiber.

Is this really how liberals want to be?  Aren’t we supposed to be the tolerant ones who try to avoid simplistic and judgmental, knee-jerk reactions to complex problems?  Dumping on fat people to defend gay people is a distraction at best and hypocrisy at worst.  Do they not realize that there are gay fat people, as well as thin conservative people?  Do they not recognize the blatant class snobbery  in this approach?  Some conservatives called the liberal owners of these pages on this and, for once, I don’t blame them one bit.

The majority of the commenters on one of the pages shared my indignation and the page owners eventually removed the offensive post, albeit with a “some people just can’t take a joke” half-apology. 

The other page, however, had a completely different class of commenter.  Most of the comments were of the smirky, “oink, oink”, frat boy variety.  Yes, these were liberals, who are readily able to see how prejudice dehumanizes gays, blacks, women, and other groups, but find it perfectly fine to ignore the humanity of  fat people and who made crude comments at the expense of some poor fat woman who is someone’s daughter, sister, wife, mother, or grandmother.  It’s as if they believe courtesy has a weight limit and if one exceeds it, then they deserve all the scorn heaped upon them.

Instead of viewing obesity as a complex health issue, people of all political stripes view it as a moral issue first, believing that fat people have forfeited all expectations of common courtesy for not being thin.   Fat people are viewed as lazy gluttons with no control who deserve everything they get.  Never mind that those heaping the scorn are not perfect paragons of virtue themselves and may well be smokers, alcoholics, drug users, workaholics, and so on.  They somehow think their “sin” is better because it doesn’t show on the outside for all to see.   Never mind that their habits are every bit as unhealthy and sometimes, even more so.

The truth is, though, that no one is perfect.   Everyone has their crosses to bear in this life and no person’s bad habits are “better” than that of another.

As with homosexuality, many people believe that obesity is a simple choice, well within the power of the individual to control and change.  But, as with homosexuality, who would choose to be hated, ridiculed, bullied, and discriminated against?

Many fat people on both pages (and elsewhere) offered apologetic excuses of why they are fat and how they’ve unsuccessfully tried to lose weight over the years.  This is similar to how gay people often feel it is necessary to justify why they are gay by pointing out that it is not a choice, but a genetic thing.

But, in the end, it doesn’t matter why fat people are fat or why gay people are gay. Neither group owes anyone any explanation of why they are the way they are in order to deserve basic human rights and to be treated with dignity and common courtesy.

Gay people and fat people have a lot in common in our society, both often dehumanized, bullied, and hated.  They should be natural allies working together for the common good of both.  Throwing one group under the bus to defend the other is a distracting, divisive tactic that is unworthy of us as liberals.  Let’s take the high road next time, shall we?

 

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While reading an online article recently, I came upon this sentence:

After six years of dating and two children together, Matthew McConaughey finally popped the question to longtime girlfriend Camila Alves in December 2011.

I don’t know what anyone else thinks, but I think that once a couple has had two children together, their relationship is more than simply “dating” and that, as the mother of his children, she is much more than merely his “girlfriend”. Such terms are completely inadequate to describe the type of relationship they have. The dividing bar of single/legally married for what one calls the relationship and those involved in them no longer works in today’s world

Our language has failed to keep up with the current realities of modern relationships. Boyfriend/girlfriend are completely inadequate terms not just for relationships such as these, but for anyone past 25, in my opinion.  I’m in my 50s and calling a man of my own generation my “boyfriend” is beyond silly and ludicrous.

Similarly, “dating” does not work for any couple who is living together, with or without children. To me, someone who is merely dating does not live with their dating partner.

What do you think? What are your suggestions for better terms for modern relationships?

The only ones that even remotely work for me are “significant other” or “partner”, along with “partnership” to describe the relationship. Even these are inadequate, because of the businesslike aura to them, and because most people associate the word “partner” with same-sex relationships.  Nevertheless, they aren’t nearly as jarring as boy/girlfriend and dating.

To return to the original sentence that inspired this post, the author would have done better to word the sentence like this:

In December of 2011, Matthew McConaughey proposed to his partner, Camila Alves. The couple have been in a relationship for more than six years and have two children together.

This works much better as it not only gets rid of the inadequate terms of “dating” and “girlfriend”, it also removes the assumption that a legal marriage is or should be the goal of every intimate relationship (…finally popped the question) as well as the gratingly trite expression, “popped the question”.   Bubblegum pops, not questions.

 

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