The Mindy Project thinks the idea of men being raped is pretty funny.

4 May

The_Mindy_Project_intertitle

I was so jazzed when The Mindy Project started airing. I thought it was hilaaaaaaaarious. And it’s managed to remain pretty funny, its humor centered around a shock factor not contingent, for once, on vulgarity/crassness (which is fine and can be funny, but is nothing novel), but more on bucking expectations of gender and a female lead who fearlessly and unapologetically says whatever she wants. Obviously, I like this. It’s sadly refreshing that there are now a handful of female characters on television shows who don’t constantly apologize for their very existence and all the ways (too successful, too fat, too flat-chested, too loud, too mouthy, too insistent on what they want, etc) in which they disappoint men. Also, one of the doctors on the show describes himself as a Bro-BGYN, which still makes me laugh.

So far, I haven’t found anyone else who has brought this up, but I am skeptical I’m the only one who noticed and/or was bothered by part of the episode ‘An Officer and a Gynecologist.’ Completely feasibly, an 18-year-old woman named Jenny comes to stay with Mindy for a short period when she flees her father’s place. Mindy gives Jenny permission to have some friends over, and when she gets home later that evening, she finds Morgan the nurse handcuffed to a bed after he calls to her for help. He says Jenny texted him to come over saying her “reproductive health was in danger.” Mindy watches in horror as he explains, while Jenny smiles blithely.

Jenny then clarifies, “You said independent women need to make some mistakes with men!” Embarrassed smile, apologetic shrug, sits next to Morgan on the bed. “I’m going to lose my virginity to him.”

And then Morgan, who is clearly in distress, says emphatically, “No, no, nope.”

They both ignore him – and his protests – as Mindy explains that Morgan is good for things like dropping off recycling or cleaning out your car, and that he’s a real loser to whom she shouldn’t ‘lose’ her virginity.

Then Morgan says, “You’ve gotta stop rubbing my leg, it’s sooo close.”

Mindy then says she’s calling Jenny’s dad, and Morgan’s grandmother (because…?). The party is disbanded and we assume Morgan is released. Happily, we are not asked to laugh at not only his unwilling restraint and the specter of being raped, but also his actual rape.

I was surprised this hasn’t already been addressed. This is a light-hearted comedy, and that’s supposed to be funny? I don’t see it. Obviously, if you reverse the characters, where Jenny is handcuffed to the bed and Morgan is talking about how he’s about to lose his virginity to her, it would be unilaterally and unequivocally condemned. So why was there no real response?

This, apparently, isn’t the first time The Mindy Project has made light of the idea of men being raped. I guess I wasn’t totally paying attention in the episode when the other Dr. L leaves, because I probably would’ve been pissed about this, too. Here’s a recap of what happened:

In the episode, Mindy challenges Dr. L to a boozy “shot off.” Mindy wins and remains remarkably sober for someone who just downed 14 shots (her secret is that she ate a whole loaf of bread before she went out), but Dr. L gets so wasted that Mindy has to help him to his apartment. Once there, she can’t find his keys, so she just lays him down in the hallway. She then kisses him, and he yells “Woah, neighbors!” She puts her hand over his mouth and says “Nothing happened, you liked it,” before leaving him there.

Next, we see the character Christina, who is the ex-wife of Mindy’s coworker Danny, stop by Dr. L’s apartment (where Danny is crashing) to drop off some of Danny’s clothes. Dr. L is still in the hallway, but is no longer wearing pants—he took them off when he was trying to find his keys. Christina has a key (somehow?) and so she helps him into the apartment. Before shutting the door, she has a mischievous look in her eye and it’s implied that she’s going to try to sleep with him.

The next morning Dr. L tells Mindy that he was blackout drunk and had sex with Christina, and the rest of the episode revolves around the consequences of this action (such as Dr. L quitting his job). The first problem here is that the show does not acknowledge that someone absolutely cannot consent to sex when they are blackout drunk. – via Bitch Magazine

Oh, men. How funny! When a woman gets black out drunk and someone has sex with her, it’s rape. But when it happens to a man, no big deal! He probably would’ve enjoyed it, had he been conscious, anyway, because he’s a dude. Despite the fact that recent studies suggest men are raped almost as frequently as women, the idea that a man can be raped by a woman is still one that’s not taken very seriously (it seems men who have been raped disagree with how our culture generally  perceives the gravity of their rape). As evidenced by Morgan’s reaction in ‘An Officer and a Gynecologist,’ we all know that men are ceaseless horndogs so DTF that ultimately their desire for sex will overtake their desire to not be raped, as long as you know how to handle them*. Obviously, this is dangerous, irresponsible, and actively harmful rhetoric for any show to make, let alone one being nationally broadcast on public television and presented as comedy.

I didn’t think it was funny. In fact, while it was happening, I was in a mild state of disbelief. Was this really happening, on this show? I guess so, because the show also seems to poke fun at feminists writing about rape. I’m sure if asked, Mindy Kaling will insist that she doesn’t think rape is funny and would never condone it, as does most everyone. I’m sure she believes that, too. But as she is the creator, writer, and star of The Mindy Project, it doesn’t explain why she would make light of men being raped. Twice.

I wonder if she took a poll of male rape survivors to see how funny, in retrospect, that whole thing was.

*That’s not to be confused with the real, involuntary response people can experience while being assaulted. Men and women can experience arousal and even orgasm during a rape; these are physiological responses to stimuli, and nothing more.

No. 6 – The False Accusation Epidemic

5 Mar

Jail-woman-310x168A friend came up with this addition to the list of 5 Tools Everyone in the Rape Culture Industry Should Be Using, which is actually more of an oversight on my part, because spreading the idea that false accusations of rape are common, prevalent, and are more likely than not the case is a vital cog in the rape culture industry’s gears.

Feel free to ignore all rhetoric, statistics, and data that dispute this tool, because it’s highly effective, which is the only concern Everyone in the Rape Culture Industry should have. Aaron Bady may say that “We are in the midst of an ongoing, quiet epidemic of sexual violence, now as always. We are not in the midst of an epidemic of false rape charges, and that fact is important here,” and he may be right, but don’t let that sway you. And although rates of false accusation are most likely at about 8% (this, of course, cannot include the sexual assaults that go unreported; if everyone who was sexually assaulted reported it, the number would plunge), it is imperative that every single time someone who makes a false accusation is found out, it be published on major news outlets nationwide, as though false accusations of rape are somehow more remarkable than false accusations of any other crime. Sure, the rape-specific coverage of false accusations may be disproportionate, but don’t let that bother you, either (it’s definitely not a byproduct of rape culture, so don’t even think it).  Fortunately for Everyone in the Rape Culture Industry, the media rarely reports on examples of, for instance, how a man accused  of rape over many years by multiple women, who don’t know each other but recount the same experience, can be acquitted every time. Or that an estimated 3% of rapists will ever see any jail time. Imagine how bogged down newspapers and news shows would be if they reported on every rape trial, even just the ones that ended in conviction. Untenable! So they just stick to reporting false accusations, the validity of doing so supported by the other tools – specifically, No. 3 – Women = Crazy. Phew, close call.

So, get out there, rape culture apologists, and start spreading the discredited notion that false rape accusations are relevant to the discussion of sexual violence. Just don’t mention that it has no basis and actually hurts people, because nobody wants to believe that. It’s much easier (and more convenient, and less torturous*) to believe women are so likely to be vindictive, vengeful, irrational nutbars, they will make false accusations out of sheer spite and the female’s innate desire to destroy good men.

*Clarification: it’s easier, more convenient, and less torturous for anyone not a survivor of sexual assault. The survivors, however, are just SOL.

5 Tools Everyone in the Rape Culture Industry Should Be Using

4 Mar wtm

So, funny story. I got an email from a website encouraging me to try their new blog topic generator. I went to the generator and put in the first three things I cared about that came to mind: sexism, rape culture, and martial arts. These are the results:

blog
Well! That last one is probably not what they’d had in mind. This was about two weeks after Ma’Lik Richmond was released from detention after serving nine months for rape. Ma’Lik Richmond is one of the two teenagers convicted of raping a 16 year old girl one night in 2012. Richmond’s lawyer, Walter Madison, released this statement upon his client’s release:

Ma’lik Richmond recently completed his designated time at the Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Detention Facility. The past sixteen months have been extremely challenging for Ma’lik and his extended family. At sixteen years old, Ma’lik and his family endured hardness beyond imagine for any adult yet alone child. He has persevered the hardness and made the most of yet another unfortunate set of circumstances in his life, as with each other obstacle, Ma’lik has met it squarely, lifted his chin, and set his shoulders; He is braced for the balance of his life. While away, Ma’lik has reflected, learned, matured, and grown in many ways. He is a better, stronger person and looks forward to school, life, and spending time with family. At this point, Ma’lik wants most to be a high school teenager in conjunction with his release, Ma’lik, his family, and guardians ask that the media respect their privacy in this matter, as we all need to heal and move on with our lives. We will have you know that Ma’lik will be taking all the time necessary to focus on his academic and personal goals. We ask for your support and prayers as we move forward, thank you.

Understandably, there was a fairly angry response to it. I had a fairly angry response. So angry, in fact, that I wrote to Walter Madison. Here’s my e-mail.

“He has persevered the hardness and made the most of yet another unfortunate set of circumstances” – which set is that? The circumstances that arose after he raped a child? I’m so glad he was able to make “the most” of that. I’m sure the child he raped is equally glad that, all things said and done, he’s better and stronger for having raped someone.

I understand everyone’s right to defense. But how do you justify this torrent of rape-culture bullshit and non-apology to yourself? Ma’Lik Richmond appears incapable of truly grasping the magnitude of what he’s done, as evidenced by his apology for taking pictures(!), and this type of dismissive attitude towards his raping of a minor does nothing to combat that. Apparently, when you insist that “we all need to heal and move on with our lives,” that doesn’t apply to the girl who you, your office, and your client continually treat as though she doesn’t exist. Is it even possible for you/your office/your client to say anything that acknowledges the damage he’s done to the girl?

Anything ending with a question mark is a sincere question or request for clarification.
Apparently, though he wasn’t giving statements to news outlets at the time, I pissed him off enough (or something, idk) that he decided to respond to me. Here’s his response:

Emotion always gets the worst of us. Ignorance claims the rest. Ma’Lik is prohibited from any direct or indirect communication with that young lady. Moreover, he has apologized publicly once. He has a life to live and can not do it on his knees. He too is a child.

If you have anything intelligent to discuss; please pick up the phone, otherwise your privilege of communication with me can be considered terminated.

Happy New Year!WalterMadison.com
Oh, I have intelligent things to discuss, such as the grotesque misuse of the semicolon in his email, and also his understanding of what constitutes a ‘privilege.’ How disappointing that if I want to hear more of his bullshit rape culture apologetics, I’ll have to call instead of email. Good thing I don’t!

However, I did get one thing wrong in my initial e-mail; it was Trent Mays who apologized for taking pictures, not Ma’Lik Richmond. The only public apology Richmond made that I was able to find came from trial footage. Was that the ‘once’ Madison references? I’m not sure why he added that it was just the one time – does he think this is a point in his client’s favor? Does he think a single apology is contrition enough? I’m also not sure what part of being prohibited from contacting the survivor would preclude a sincere statement of regret from Richmond, which we haven’t seen. No, all we saw was Walter Madison saying his client’s detention was worse than being raped, and his heartfelt wishes that everyone could move forward so that Richmond might live again in naive, ignorant teenage bliss, free of responsibilities and the shackles of adulthood, such as being imprisoned for rape.

How happy for him. After all, there’s only so long one can reasonably expect Richmond to atone for raping an unconscious girl; Walter Madison has decreed it to be nine months, and any of you who take exception to any of that can pretty much just suck it, ’cause Walter Madison DGAF if you disagree.

So when I saw the title “5 Tools Everyone in the Rape Culture Industry Should Be Using,” I got to thinking. Perpetuating rape culture is definitely advantageous for some, such as: rapists, criminal defense lawyers, and assholes worldwide. Defense attorneys have a responsibility to protect their clients’ rights, but if they want to make money, they’re also interested in the best possible outcome for their client. And as long as rape culture means it’s considered a legitimate defense tactic to impugn a rape survivor’s character, or suggest her actions might be partly responsible for her being raped, or undermine her testimony that she didn’t want to have sex, some will have a vested interest in keeping rape culture alive and well – or, at my most optimistic, some will be completely apathetic about battling it.

Thus, I put together a little list of 5 Tools Everyone in the Rape Culture Industry Should Be Using. Listen up, Walter Madison, because your track record took a big hit when Richmond was found guilty. Put these to use and maybe you’ll win next time.

1) Slut Shaming – really hone your slut shaming skills. The more you can spread the belief that a woman who qualifies as your subjective definition of promiscuous is a wanton slut, the easier a time you will have making people believe she was asking for it.

2) Patriarchy Allegiance – pledge now, benefit now and forever (if you’re a man). In patriarchies, men hold most or all of the positions of power. The advantages here are obvious. And numerous. Unequal platforms, unequal treatment, unequal understanding of what ‘rape’ means.

3) Women = Crazy – this is such a powerful tool! It’s been wielded for centuries. Longer, really. The more you are able to undermine women’s credibility, the easier it is to convince people that women are crazy, irrational beings that a) can’t be trusted, b) you won’t be able to comprehend, so don’t bother, and c) are just dying for a chance to play the victim in order to ruin a man’s good name.

4) Body Policing – critique women’s bodies, all the time, and never let up. Valuating women based on their bodies is an excellent way to sustain the suggestion that they’re a commodity to be enjoyed, used, and consumed. And then discarded. Handily, it also strips women of their individuality by reducing them to the value their various parts have.

5) Control of Reproductive Health – much like body policing, the end result of making legislation regarding women’s health, especially when few or no women are present, is that it further removes any sense of agency and autonomy a woman has. This is a vital part of making people believe women are property to be shuffled from one person to another who don’t deserve or warrant a say in their own lives.

This is just a draft; if you have any additions, please let me know!

Update! No. 6 – The False Allegation Epidemic has been added.

It feels really good to stop explaining yourself.

17 Jan

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the compulsion a lot of women (it sounds like) feel to explain their thoughts, feelings, rationale, etc, often preemptively.  I know I’ve certainly done it, and been doing it for a long time. It’s an automatic response. Or sometimes, I’ll augment an explanation with something that borders on an apology, for no fucking reason at all that I can really articulate. Or I might use diction that’s friendlier/softer/more mealymouthed in an effort to…avoid offending someone? I don’t even know why.

Why is this a default mode of communication for so many women? We all know women are socialized to be polite, unassertive, and deferential, while men are socialized to be assertive, unapologetic, and, to a degree, entitled. When your culture is telling you that you have an innate right to be assertive, there’s no need to explain yourself. And when your culture tells you there are things to which you are entitled, there’s no reason not to be assertive. The other side of this stupid coin is that the socialization of women as polite, unassertive, and deferential means that when a woman does have to speak up about something, the need to explain often follows closely behind, perhaps as an apology for having to say/insist/do x/y/z.  A third side to this coin is that Western culture tells women they need to second-guess themselves all the time – this is not a message as thoroughly entrenched and manifested for men. When I was 18, I went into a Schuck’s to get a fuel pump. A kindly, plump, approaching-elderly white guy was the employee who looked up which kind I’d need. After he’d figured it out, he said, ‘So, you just want one?’ Confused, I said yes. He chuckled and then said, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t have sold you two.’ As though I were so unknowledgeable about my own car, I might believe it required two fuel pumps. This is what I mean. There’s an assumption propagated in our culture and the patriarchy that women are ripe to be taken for a ride, presumably so blithely ignorant of nearly everything that one must wonder how they managed to survive so long without falling  into an open manhole (how’s that for symbolism?), absent the steady, omniscient male guidance required to keep them safe. The patriarchy tells us (and, indeed, is founded upon this very notion) that men know best. About everything.

I’ve been making a conscious effort to not automatically explain myself so much.

It came to light that my auto insurance provider, Amica, had been joyously fucking me over for a while. I was getting an unwarranted shitty rate for my super safe Honda sedan and spotless driving record, and then the premium went up $30 more dollars per month than I was told it would come the new year. I’d been with Amica for three years, and had not once received any additional discounts – the only thing I got were rate increases and a card of gratitude. You want to show me gratitude? Cover a month’s premium. I mean, come on. I know you’re thankful for my money, you sure as shit don’t have to kill the environment by mailing out a card to tell me that. So I used their online chat feature, which, as an introvert who hates phones, I have to admit I love, to be like ‘wtf?’ After some derping, the representative told me there was a ‘statewide increase,’ and then offered to take off collision coverage, which would save me ~$500 a year. Fuck that. That sounds more beneficial to Amica than to me, given the ACV of my car. So I declined and decided to start looking around for different insurance.

When my jiu jitsu friend and smart numbers guy hooked me up with his agent at State Farm’s info, I learned that for coverage that was not only the equivalent of Amica’s, but a little better, I could save $730 per year. Upon this discovery, I was PISSED. So I took again to the chat feature to cancel my policy. And I was so pissed I had absolutely no inclination to be wooed by any attempts to retain my business.

It was really gratifying to say what was on my mind without having to reformulate the diction to be less assertive/potentially offensive. As you’ll see, I wasn’t being an asshole to the rep. That’s not ‘not automatically explaining myself so much,’ that’s being an asshole to the rep. I don’t advocate being an asshole unless someone has demonstrated they don’t have any regard for the boundaries you’ve set, demanding a more forceful conveyance of your message, until they get the picture. So, what I said is in green. My commentary/what I might’ve said if compelled to explain myself will be in blue. I’ve taken out some boring/inconsequential parts.

Rachel N.: Welcome to Amica Chat!  How may I assist you today?
Sydnie : Hi Rachel, I want to cancel my auto policy (“Hi Rachel, I need to cancel my auto policy.” No, I don’t need to, in the strictest sense; I want to because Amica’s being terrible.)
Rachel N.: Sure we would be happy to assist you with that and discuss that with you further.  We do have reps available now on the phone that could assist you.  800-242-6422 (<— bullshit tactic to try to retain my business, I know this because….)
Sydnie : I was talking to a rep named Anne earlier today and was under the impression I could do it via the chat feature (“If possible, I would prefer to do it via chat.” Also, there’s no discussion to be had. There’s just cancelling. I don’t need your tricky corporate doublespeak!)
Rachel N.: What is your reason for wanting to cancel your policy?
Sydnie : absurd and ever increasing premiums (“The rates have just risen too much for me.” Notice how I’d be taking the regrettable onus of cancellation upon myself because it’s too much for ME. Not because Amica is being fucking outrageous.)
Rachel N.: I see. What company did you switch to? (At this point, I know her questions are an attempt to keep me on, but I’m more interested in expressing that I’m pissed than not answering these questions.)
Sydnie : State Farm
Rachel N.: Do you know what coverage they are providing you?> (Are you fucking kidding me? Of course I know. I just got it.)
Sydnie : yes, it’s the same as what I have at Amica, plus a little more (“Yes, it’s [here I’d probably list the bare bones of my coverage. Why should I feel like I should do that? Fuck her questions].”)
Rachel N.: Ok, so that was with state minimum liability and $500 deductibles?
Sydnie : yes
Rachel N.: Did you do a 1 year or 6 month policy with them?
Sydnie : Why do you need this information to cancel my policy? (“Hmm, I think it’s a six month policy.” What the fuck? I know it’s a six month policy. But my instinct is to sound apologetic and a little unsure of myself.)
Rachel N.: We want to make sure that you are really getting a better deal and are being taken care of. (lol) We also like to see who we are losing our business to, etc. 
Sydnie : It’s a six month policy. It would have been nice to see this concern when I initially asked about the increase in premiums last month. Instead, I was offered the option to remove the collision coverage.
Rachel N.: I understand, I am sorry that it wasn’t discussed at that time.  How much are you going to be saving with them?
Sydnie : saving slightly less than half . (“Well the monthly premium is $xx and they go year round, not ten months like Amica, so that’s $YYY.” Why am I explaining my math?!)
Rachel N.: Ok.  So about $500 savings a year.
Rachel N.: And when does your new policy start with State Farm?
Sydnie : I’ll be saving ~$700 a year, since my premium with Amica is $YYYY. (“I think I’ll be saving around $700 a year, since my premium with Amica is $YYYY?” I don’t think, I know, and why am I asking for her affirmation?! She was hella off the first time!)
Sydnie : It’s already started, so canceling can take effect right away. (“I just started it, so we can cancel it as of today, if possible.” Like it’s a joint enterprise?)
Rachel N.: Oops, was looking at the wrong policy, yes that is correct. Ok, we would like to regain your business in the future, is it ok if we contact you next year to see if we can give you a better rate at that time?
Sydnie : Honestly I’m surprised the difference is so great, given that State Farm is one of the brick and mortar types with customers assigned to agents. (I probably wouldn’t have said this at all. I was curious if she’d provide any further info about why the difference was so great.)
Sydnie : sure
Rachel N.: Right.  Well we hate to lose your business.  I understand that price is a big factor.
Sydnie : I appreciate the sentiment but if there had been any good will efforts in the past, especially given my spotless driving record, I might’ve been more amenable to staying. But a difference this big? It’s hard not to feel like one might be getting fleeced. (“Yeah, price is a big factor. :-/”)

She ignored that entirely, and the rest of the conversation was about the minutia of refunds, etc. It was, for once, a satisfying conversation where I didn’t come away feeling a little compromised.

Anybody else have this type of default response? Or used to?

Hey guys, no one blames you for liking those Kyra Gracie pics.

18 Sep

To the guys:

After the pics from Kyra Gracie’s recent photo shoot showed up online, lots of women in martial arts voiced their displeasure, which Grappling Girl explains so masterfully I’m not going to rehash it here (also in that post are numerous examples of the type of pictures in question, including the actual Kyra Gracie pics. check out that kimura pic. tell me that that doesn’t insult you, as a bjj practicioner. her elbow is up way high, she’s kimura-ing from the dubious choice of a poor half guard, and there’s so much space between them you could just wedge a guy in there to complete the fantasy, which would probably be more honest anyway. or that rear naked choke pic – since when is grabbing the biceps a reasonable defense? “Oooh yeah, hot girls doing shitty jiu jitsu, that’s what I want to see!”).

When the pics surfaced, and women in martial arts/BJJ started objecting, one of the inevitable responses that comes along in situations like this (and did in this one) is what I’m going to call the Biological Imperative Defense. It goes like this:

“What’s wrong with liking to look at pictures of beautiful women? She has an incredible body and is a master of this thing I’m super passionate about, of COURSE I like seeing her all sexy. I’m a (straight/bi) man. It’s natural that I like to see sexy pictures of sexy women.” Or something to that effect. I’m just pulling stuff from the recesses of my memory, but you probably know the type of comment I mean.

When you hear people objecting to those pictures, maybe you consider those objections, and then experience something of a cognitive dissonance because you still find those pictures sexy and fun to look at. And the question that logically follows that train of thought is, “if these pictures are demeaning/objectifying/offensive, but I’m still enjoying them, what does that say about me and my sexuality?” Not much, as far as I’m concerned. Basically, all that makes me think is, ‘here’s a straight/bi dude who likes sexy pictures of women.’ You are not to blame for pictures like that, or the ire they draw, or for finding them titillating. The (reasonable) people who are voicing their problems with it are not blaming you – not directly, and not by extension for enjoying them. I’m prepared to look at pics of Carlos Condit shirtless all day, if that’s what it takes to prove to you I think there’s nothing wrong with it.

There’s nothing wrong with liking those pictures, and that’s not what’s ruffling feathers. No joke. No one – no one reasonable, anyway – expects that a straight/bi man would not be intrigued to see sexy pictures of a woman he finds sexy, and no one could blame him for it. No one’s objecting to your sexuality (unless, of course, you’re expressing it in a tasteless, demeaning way and making comments about hoping to get caught in her triangle or whatever. Then you might get some flak. Incidentally, the proliferation of crass comments is an example of the effect of the patriarchy – thinking that those comments are reasonable, appropriate, and relevant, regardless of how they may make half the population feel (alienated, objectified, marginalized, dehumanized, disregarded, etc). Do you remember how displeased Jon Hamm was when the media was freaking out about his junkThis is what happens on the daily with women’s bodies.)*

The whole Kyra Gracie thing is not a new discussion. In fact, it’s just another iteration of the main issue at the core of feminism. And in any discussion where one group is drawing attention to the negative impact of another group’s actions/reach/legacy, and you are a member (willing or not) of the latter, it’s easy to start feeling defensive. I understand why you might. A major, integral, and intractable part of your identity belongs to a group that, it sounds like, is under fire. But the thing is, it’s not feminists vs. men. When feminists point out an injustice/mechanism of oppression/sexist thing, it’s not an attack on men at large. It’s often not even an attack on a man, unless it’s something irrefutably fucking horrific and sexist. It’s an attack on the system of oppression. You are not necessarily or by default an active cog in the system of the oppression of women. And you can certainly choose not to be. So, good news, you don’t have to feel defensive and under attack…since you’re not.

To make sure we’re on the same page and working with the same basic understanding of this rhetoric, here’s a very brief explanation of one of the main concepts shaping it:

The Patriarchy
A social system in which the male is the primary authority figure central to social organization and the central roles of political leadership, moral authority, and control of property, and where fathers hold authority over women and children. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination. (<– that’s from Wikipedia; emphasis is mine.)

A popular way of dismissing and ridiculing feminism is to make fun of any reference to the patriarchy. My guess is that to those unfamiliar with it, it may sound like it’s bordering on being a conspiracy theory. So let’s optimistically assume there’s not an intentional, conscious, and collective effort to sustain the patriarchy. Let’s just look at the facts.

The majority of world leaders, politicians, CEOs, the clergy, etc, are men. The US is, by definition, essentially a patriarchy. Maybe not the patriarchy of Georgian England, but still a patriarchy. And even if no party to the patriarchy is literally saying, “Women, we require your subordination,” efforts abound to ensure it – ludicrous reproductive health legislature, the systematic deconstruction of any powerful (or potentially powerful) woman’s appearance, women being treated as ornamentation/decor/trophies in the media, etc. Let’s be generous and assume much of that is a straight-from-hell holdover of less enlightened days, and not a conscious effort (except the policy-making stuff…that’s about as conscious as it gets) to be assholes.

So if it’s not conscious and intentional, then all these manifestations of sexism, rape culture, the minimization of women and their concerns, etc, are emblematic of an insidious, far-reaching cultural subconsciousness that suggests these things are expected, reasonable, and fair. And when feminists point out that a lot of this shit shouldn’t be the status quo, is not reasonable, and is not fair, and then have it dismissed by, primarily, men in power who seem to think they’re both the Masters of the Universe and the arbiters of How Things Are? You can see how a group of oppressed people being told they’re not being oppressed by their oppressors is a pretty maddening thing. Even if the oppressors are not consciously, intentionally, and avowedly trying to oppress/contribute to the oppression of women, it can still happen. This is the patriarchy in 21st century America (well, that’s a brief and incomplete description, but hopefully you get the idea).

So what might this all mean for you?
What would women in martial arts/feminists want out of you? A greater awareness of the systems that result in this being almost de rigueur for many women in the public eye, regardless of occupation. An understanding of why the people who don’t like it feel that way. An understanding of how it makes your female training partners feel to be represented like that. And, of course, the understanding that it’s not you personally as a man against whom feminists are railing. That’s my guess, anyway. That’s what I want.

I’m not saying this to pander to any guys who might read this. No ‘hey bro, I’m a cool chick, I can hang with the guys and understand that you’re guys and you’re attracted to sexy women (if you’re straight/bi) and I’m one of the crew.’ I’m saying this because it’s a fact that I don’t see mentioned, and its omission results in an unnecessary straw man-type dialogue that distracts from the actual concern. And I’m also saying it because, really, guys. It’s not us versus you, unless you’re an asshole, but you’re probably not, especially if you’re engaged enough to read this far. And I’m also saying it because I like you guys! A lot! I like you guys so much I can even envision marrying one of you some day! I operate under the assumption that people are inherently good and generally have good intentions, and I approach discussions of equality with that M.O. I’ve always been treated with respect by all the guys with whom I’ve ever trained, and if that genuine affection for men, as fellow human beings, is not currently a part of the discussion, it’s an oversight. It’s vital and germane to effective communication. The efforts for equality are collaborative, and we need allies. And, if you’re in favor of equality, and not sexist, it’s not hard to be an ally. We want you with us. We’re psyched when you’re with us. SO psyched. And, really…why wouldn’t you want to be an ally?

strauss
Daniel Strauss. Enjoy!

***

*in my research, I discovered that, hilariously, Salon has the topic “jon hamm’s penis“. sadly, there is only one article within it. :'(

Dana White Almost Managed a Sexism-Free TUF18 Premiere!

16 Sep

When I heard Ronda Rousey and whoever won Tate vs. Zingano were going to be the coaches of the next TUF, featuring female contestants, I was totally psyched. Then I heard that they’d be coaching both women AND men, and my mind was blown.

In virtually any arena, the endeavor for gender equality is a constant, unrelenting struggle. When women were finally let into the UFC, the biggest and most prestigious MMA promotion in the world, I was elated. Feminist MMA-enthusiasts everywhere were too, no doubt. So when Dana White took a gigantic leap forward for women in MMA by sending the message that a coach is a coach, regardless of the coaches’ or the fighters’ genders, I was sincerely impressed. Wow! Big ups to Dana! That was more than even I was hoping for. The progression of women in the UFC was not going to be incremental, each victory feeling like the begrudged result of an exhausting battle of will; it was going to be fast, unapologetic, and all in, much like the typical TUF contestant. What a banner day for women’s MMA. Truly.

The premiere was great. There were a lot of good fights, lots of skill and talent and hunger. I was watching the premiere with an equally socially-conscious friend. At 6 or so minutes in, Dana directs a speech to the female contestants about how he doesn’t have to tell them to work hard, because they already bring some of the most exciting fights the UFC has seen (his words, though not verbatim). That’s great, too. It’s nice to hear his respect for and confidence in the women and their efforts so far in women’s MMA.

Then, Dana says, “Gentlemen, you have your (fucking) work cut out for you this season. And I’m not even joking. You know what I mean? You don’t want to be the guys on this season having the women’s fights show you up. Remember why you came here, and what you came to do.” The guys chuckle. There are a few perfunctory laughs from the women; this is what cultural norms expect of them. Jokes made at their expense, and if they don’t laugh, or worse yet, object, they’re invariably chastised and told to lighten up. LOLLOL. Is this what they’re in for? A season of being treated as a novelty by Dana White & Co in every indirect interaction?  Of having their effort and hunger summarily dismissed as secondary to the men’s stories? Of feeling like a precursor to and time-killer until the real fights?

My friend and I looked at each other. She said, “Aw, he almost made it the whole time without saying anything sexist!” I laughed, because examples like these abound, and any pre-verbal hopes we had to see a truly sexism-free premiere was probably naive and overly optimistic anyway. We had the same feeling you get when you see a toddler trying really hard for something and just missing it. It’s endearing, you still give them a pat on the head, and you have warm feelings for them and hope for the future.

I don’t think Dana White is sexist. I’m not cynical enough to believe his inclusion of women in the UFC was solely a marketing ploy conceived to increase viewership and revenue. However, when you parse his statement, you come away with some disheartening questions. Such as:

What would be so terrible about having women’s fights showing the men’s fights up? If women are being taken seriously by Dana White and the UFC and treated as equal to the male fighters in terms of ability and appeal, why would it be embarrassing for you, as a male fighter, to fight worse than the women? Is it because, heaven forbid, you couldn’t even hit like a girl? I mean, that is the lowest of the low, right? The ultimate schoolyard insult, up there with throwing like a girl, or being called a homophobic slur? How unbearable would it be if your capabilities as a man were called into question by superior female fights? Wouldn’t that just be basically the most emasculating thing you could think of?

I doubt that Dana White consciously meant any of the above, but the question of what, exactly, he did mean with that statement remains. Even giving Dana the benefit of the doubt, the unfortunate net effect of the quote above is the perpetuation of sexism in MMA. The tacit implication is still that it’s embarrassing to be outdone by a woman. Women in MMA face enough obstacles without the president of the UFC not being aware that some of the stuff coming out of his mouth is sexist. It’s a shining example of how the more insidious types of sexism manifest, even in people who aren’t consciously or intentionally sexist. And even if the only reason he said it was to light a fire under the asses of the guys and avoid boring fights, it still reinforces and panders to the notion that women don’t really merit being taken seriously in MMA.

I still applaud the comprehensive inclusion of women into the UFC. It’s genuinely impressive, and I remain impressed by the decision and Dana White’s commitment of jumping in with both feet. And I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season, and upcoming UFCs and TUFs and the women who will be in them. Such a substantial paradigm shift won’t be without some obstacles and tangles along the way, but to ensure the equal treatment of women in UFC, an environment where people are conscious of the implications of what they say – as anyone in the public eye undoubtedly is – is vital, for both equality, and for the female fighters who have probably had to fight their entire careers to be taken seriously (see: Shayna Baszler‘s heartfelt speech about her history in MMA in Episode 2).

“I got picked by Miesha Tate? Is that her name? Is Miesha Tate her name? I don’t even know what her name is, so really, I don’t even care that she picked me last, ’cause I don’t even know who she is.” – Tim “The Asshole” Gorman sums it up in an impressively butthurt manchild fashion. Is that not his nickname? My mistake.

Tim

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