Thursday, April 17, 2014

18 Ways Some Guy Has No Clue What It's Like to Live as a Woman

Via Shakesville, I learned that some guy has written a super, link-bait article entitled, "18 Things Females Seem Not To Understand (Because, Female Privilege)."

As regular readers of Fannie's Room can guess on the basis of the title alone, the whole list is quite the stellar compilation of the usual MRA "seeeee, men are the ones who are really oppressed by the feeeeee-males" talking points.

For instance, we have:
"Female privilege is being able to walk down the street at night without people crossing the street because they’re automatically afraid of you."
Welp, newsflash to MRAs: I will always, always, prioritize my physical safety over a male stranger's possible hurt feelings about how I might have, say, crossed the street to avoid an encounter on a sidewalk at night.  Yes, I consider that my actions might hurt his feelings for a few minutes, but in the grand scheme of my life, yep, I admit that I value my own life more than a man's feelings.

Of course, leave it to an MRA type to frame what is in reality a survival mechanism to the reality of disproportionate male violence as an example of "female privilege," with all of the associated implications that survival is a "privilege," and not something women are entitled to because of our humanity. Because, a man's feelings.

And really, that's a pretty good summary of much of the list.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Reading Update

In the 2014 Reading Experiment I'm doing, in which I'm reading books only written by female authors for the year, I've finished a few recently.

After Kushiel's Dart, I was up for some shorter books, so I opted first for Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake.  Atwood's speculative fiction is, in my opinion, unparalleled today. Oryx does not pass the Bechdel Test, yet I read the book as a critique on entitled young masculinity, in addition to being a warning/critique of online culture, genetic modification, and environmental degradation.

I'm also greatly entertained by her understated, dark humor.  The main character in Oryx, Jimmy/Snowman is not particularly likable - after all, he was somewhat complicit in (spoiler alert) wiping out the rest of humanity. This character, however, spends most of his time in the book traipsing around in a grimy sheet while being physically and mentally miserable in a hell-on-earth of his (and his buddy's) own making. 

Several similes in the book were notable to me, including when the main character referenced his aloof mother, who was, "smiling her increasingly weird smile, as if someone had yelled Smile! and goosed her with a fork."  Another time, the narrator explains that some of the genetic experiments had to be stopped because, "who needed a cane toad with a prehensile tale like a chameleon's that might climb in through the bathroom window and blind you while you were brushing your teeth."

The second book I read was Octavia Butler's collection Bloodchild and Other Stories.  I read Butler's Lilith's Brood a few years ago and was reminded, once again, that Butler was truly a master of science fiction.

Included in Bloodchild were Butler's thoughts on her own writing and her explanations of how she came up with the ideas for the stories in this collection. To me, that extra was a treat for me to read - especially given the themes of her stories, which include gestation, intra-specie relations, colonization, and communication. I also see her stories as containing layers upon layers of interpretation.

The first story in the collection, Bloodchild, is notable as it explores male pregnancy and what that might look like, particularly in an environment of questionable consent on the part of the men who become pregnant.  Rather than having women be the impregnators of men, she creates a world in which an alien race of centipede-like beings has taken over the world and use primarily male bodies in which to lay their eggs.  Birth itself is both painful and life-threatening.

To this scenario, Butler adds moral complexity.  Humans and aliens develop a love, of sorts, to one another, with the aliens bonding with the individual they've chosen to bear their young.  Humans are portrayed as having adapted to this alien invasion, with some even "volunteering" to carry eggs. In this alternate world removed from the real world where erosion of reproductive rights is common, the atrociousness of forcing people to be pregnant seemed particularly striking and obvious to me.

Butler also includes an essay on the act and art of writing itself, including this bit of advise for aspiring writers, "First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not."

So, if you've read either of these books, feel free to share your thoughts!  Next up in my queue is CS Friedman's Feast of Souls.  That book will be the 4th trilogy I'll be in the middle of, but several readers recommended it, so here we go!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

National Equal Pay Day

Yesterday was National Equal Pay Day in the US.

I don't write much about equal pay myself, so I highly recommend Echidne's roundup of links, which include her own writing on the topic. 

In my opinion, Echidne's writing is among the best on Internet in analyzing the gender gap in earnings, rebutting anti-woman, anti-feminist "explanations" for the gap, and articulating flaws in various studies.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Perspective and Privilege

A 2011 Williams Institute report (PDF) notes that 27% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual respondents have reported workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. For those who are out in the workplace, that number rises to 38%.

78% of transgender respondents report workplace harassment, with 47% reporting discrimination in hiring, promotion, or job retention.

6 years ago, 7,001,084 people voted for Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that eliminated the right for same-sex couples to marry.  Last week, Brendan Eich, CEO of Mozilla, resigned "under pressure after his [financial] support" of Prop 8 surfaced. He had donated $1,000 to the campaign for Prop 8.

On April 7, 2014 a Google News search for "Brendan Eich" returned 27,800 results.

So, to be generous, something like, what .0000001% of Prop 8 supporters have experienced pressure to resign due to their support of Prop 8. And, I assume this number is somewhat accurate because, holy shit wow, do we ever hear about it, and have Important Conversations about it, and have people Really Take A Stand about it when, stop. the. presses. a cisgender white (presumably) heterosexual man's livelihood is threatened because of his now-unpopular political stance and, meanwhile, a trans person not getting a callback for a job interview is just ho-hum business as usual.

You might be able to tell that I've been largely annoyed with many of the conversations and blog posts I've read about this man and his situation, even within the gay-male-dominated "LGBT" (ie, gay) blogosphere. Indeed, I consciously refuse to fall into the Tolerance Trap wherein I grandly denounce Eich's resignation and suggest that, oh my, how intolerant of us to not tolerate people's intolerance of us!


I believe that Prop 8 was an absolute moral wrong that caused actual harm. My life, my dignity, my self-respect, my relationship, and my marriage are not academic debates. Having conversations about whether I'm sufficiently deserving of equal rights with people who demand that I do so with the utmost civility and decorum has never been "fun" for me.  It's degrading.  Nor do I believe that it is healthy, for me, to be 100% forgiving of those who have harmed me without apology, even if they've "only" harmed me by hating the idea of my equality so much that they spend their money on opposing it.

To those who now demand magnanimity of me, of "us" - for we are still an "us," it seems - I'm not saying I find it entertaining, either, to see a person resign from a job for supporting Prop 8.  I have no idea who or what entity initiated the pressure to get Eich to resign, even as anti-LGBT conservatives and some gays blather about [content note: mixed metaphors and appropriation] the Gay McCarthyist Witchhut Lynch Mobs.

I'm simply remaining agnostic to the frenzied, desperate, and super fun debates about whether its "fair," or "tolerant," or "moral" for people to "be pressured" to resign for supporting Prop 8.  I usually hate it when people tell me I should worry about more important things, but I admit, I do think the LGBT community has greater concerns than coddling the fears of bigots who are now anxious about possibly having to suffer consequences for their financial support of our inequality and degradation.

I'm a lesbian. I've only ever known consequences and the potential for ostracism from this. How lucky for bigots that they just now are understanding what that might mean.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How Convenient

Recent narratives purport that being good at school is now a girl thing, because schools these days are purportedly feminized, biased to reward girls, and hostile toward boys and "innate boy behavior."  So claims psychiatrist Ned Hallowell, quoted in a recent Boy Crisis article:
"God bless the women's movement—we needed it—but what's happened is, particularly in schools where most of the teachers are women, there's been a general girlification of elementary school, where any kind of disruptive behavior is sinful.... 
Most boys are naturally more restless than most girls, and I would say that's good. But schools want these little goody-goodies who sit still and do what they're told—these robots—and that's just not who boys are."
How lucky then, for boys and men, that New York Times columnist David Brooks is now telling the nation that boring goody-goody good-grade-getters ought not to be hired!  He purports (via Shakesville):
"'Bias hiring decisions against perfectionists. If you work in a white-collar sector that attracts highly educated job applicants, you've probably been flooded with résumés from people who are not so much human beings as perfect avatars of success. They got 3.8 grade-point averages in high school and college. They served in the cliché leadership positions on campus. They got all the perfect consultant/investment bank internships. During off-hours they distributed bed nets in Zambia and dug wells in Peru. 
When you read these résumés, you have two thoughts. First, this applicant is awesome. Second, there's something completely flavorless here. This person has followed the cookie-cutter formula for what it means to be successful and you actually have no clue what the person is really like except for a high talent for social conformity. Either they have no desire to chart out an original life course or lack the courage to do so. Shy away from such people.'"
Getting good grades, being well behaved, and taking on leadership and volunteer positions are, today, largely coded as girl/feminine things.  So of course it's no surprise that these traits are now being dismissed, denigrated, and devalued in one of the nation's most important newspapers.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Limits of Chivalry

[Content note: Misogyny; male supremacism]

This week's interactions with self-proclaimed chivalrous man Roger/Hector has prompted me to contemplate, again, chivalry's limits.  These limits, I suspect, are not news to many readers here, but they are notable, still.

Despite having been banned from my blog in August when he was posting as "Hector_St_Clare," Hector created a new identity, "Roger Chillingworth," just so he could comment on my recent post about Mike Huckabee's purported chivalry toward women.

In this conversation, before Hector/Roger's arrival, several readers noted how so-called chivalrous men nonetheless aggressively lash out toward women who do not accept their chivalrous behavior.  To this observation, I add that because it sounds nice and innocuous, perhaps many men, even progressive ones, don't immediately understand how chivalry and benevolent sexism are, in fact, harmful.

I've seen men like Hector/Roger be willing to have genteel conversations and disagreements with other men - their equals - about politics, and even progressive men don't always pick up on, or acknowledge, the condescending tones and assumptions that Chivalry Man is putting out toward women in the conversation. Yet, many women know from lived experience that hell hath no fury like a chivalrous man being rejected, or called out, for his chivalrous behavior.

Chivalry, many women learn, has limits. This week, Hector/Roger fulfilled a helpful purpose in articulating quite well these limits:

Rule # 1 of Chivalry is this. While the chivalrous man will proclaim that he adores women, that he puts them on a pedestal, and that he believes that women as a class should be treated with the utmost love and respect as special creatures, this chivalrous treatment does not actually extend to all women. It extends, we know, only to women who accept their inferior status in relation to the chivalrous man.

First, let's note how Roger/Hector says he treats women:
"See, I have rather higher expectations of how men should treat women than you apparently do, and I hold myself to those high expectations. Which includes treating you as the chivalric code demands."
Ah, but put the chivalrous man in a roomful of feminist women, and the true colors come out, as he barges into a conversation to tell me this about my blog, my writing, my life, and my human dignity, in general:
"I don't mean to be rude, but you're almost a perfect example of the person with nothing useful to say, and who is therefore undeserving of political or civil rights."
The chivalrous man loves nothing more than boasting about how honorably he treats women. Hup, correction. What the chivalrous man loves even more than boasting about his high moral manly code, is tearing women down when they get too uppity for his own liking. (Dating tip: chivalrous men do not like their women confident).

Rule #2. The chivalrous man does not actually love women, not in any true sense of the word.  What the chivalrous man loves about women, as a class, is that women are who he defines himself as in opposition to: namely, as superior than.

He has a lot of anxiety tied up with this love, naturally. Most of all, he fears being compelled, by others or by laws, to have to deal with women as his equals. To interact with women as equals is for him to lose his status, he believes, as a man. It is to lose his god-given (or biology-given, if he's an atheist) right to feel superior than half of humanity.

Too insecure to engage with people on the merits of their ideas and the content of their character as individuals, he uses gender to categorize people into two types of people: those he treats seriously, and those from whom he dismisses and demands subservience.  Roger/Hector explains:
"I have zero interest in treating you as an equal, and my moral values won't allow me to do so. It's thoroughly inappropriate for inferiors to demand to be treated as equals in a conversation with their moral and intellectual superiors. If you have trouble dealing with that, then go ahead and ban me again. Evidently you have no interest in learning anything about obedience , submission and self sacrifice, so this is probably a fools errand."
So fragile, this chivalrous manhood. It's the NFL player boasting about his ultimate toughness as a destroying machine while simultaneously whining that sharing a locker room with a gay teammate will decimate his ability to play football.

Rule #3. The chivalrous man, believing in his own supremacy over women, does not imbue women with the same rights to autonomy with which he imbues himself and, at times, other men.

Being entitled to profound self-centeredness, he believes that women, our bodies, and our wombs, are extensions of himself, his will, his needs, and his rights. Women don't have equal rights, in his worldview, because women don't have value and full humanity in and of ourselves. Women, he thinks, should have rights and protections only insofar as those rights coincide with his own interests.

In responding to Rebecca's Daughter, who noted that she has no interest in being treated with chivalry just because she's a woman, for instance, Roger/Hector noted:
"I must say, Rebecca [sic], that I'm almost completely uninterested in your autonomy or sovereignty."
Despite her clearly articulated will, Roger/Hector notes that he has a quite different manpinion on how Rebecca's Daughter ought to be treated, as a woman, and that these manpinions over-ride her own.

In some ways, I suppose I appreciate a man who lays out the ugly truth of chivalry for all to see.  Illusory superiority combined with complete ignorance of feminism is truly something to behold in a man. And, as I've interacted with Roger/Hector on Internet for more than a year, often not of my own choosing, his beliefs seem somewhat sincerely held, fragile as they also seem.

It's clear that people with these beliefs really, truly exist and that women who are not accomplices in this fraud called "chivalry" do not deserve a place in the society, political order, or world of the chivalrous man. Take note, ladies and ladies who love chivalry.

But, of course, I suspect most women who are "into" male chivalry instinctively or explicitly know all of this, too. Dworkin noted decades ago that it partly explains female complicity: Women don't comply with sexism because they actually believe in male supremacy; they comply because they think it's safer to do that than to be a feminist. In some ways, they're not wrong.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Wednesday Re-Post: On Sock-Puppeting and Entitlement

Coincidentally, a year ago today, I wrote this post on Sock-Puppeting and Entitlement, where I noted:
"...if people can't respect simple Internet boundaries like "please don't comment on this blog anymore," I mostly worry about how their entitlement to traverse other people's boundaries affects their interactions with people in the physical world. How people act in some situations can be a good test, or indicator, as to how they act in other situations. Rarely, I think, does an Internet Asshole limit his behavior only to the Internet. A person either believes that other people have the right to set boundaries in their own space, or they don't. Full stop. 
So, like, how's that rape culture mentality workin' out for ya, pal?"
It's an appropriate reminder today, as readers and commenters of Fannie's Room encounter Hector St. Clare/Roger Chillingworth. Hector/Roger, I believe, followed me from the Family Scholars Blog, where I used to blog and where he used to comment.

Hector's/Roger's approach, I have found, is often to sigh himself into a conversation, as though it's pure tedium for him to deal with all of us, who he perceives as his obvious intellectual and moral inferiors who he has to take time out of his day to correct. I've never seen him counter a feminist argument or idea with any substantive argument of his own. His approach is that, well, he's a man, and if he says it, that settles it, and feminists are dumb. Take a recent arriving comment of his:
"Sigh. I am quite certain, Fannie, that most women are delighted to be treated according to the traditional chivalric code."
Just because he says so, I guess. No evidence or citation needed! It's Hector/Roger speaking! All hail the truth and wisdom!

He then proceeded to yawn about his supremacy for a bit, before I banned him, once again:
"Sigh. not much interesting or meaningful thought here, Fannie. 
I don't mean to be rude, but you're almost a perfect example of the person with nothing useful to say, and who is therefore undeserving of political or civil rights."
Mostly, I just want to note that these are not the comments of a person looking to engage in a serious or sincere manner. Over the years, I've become pretty good at recognizing patterns in commenting that evidence that a commenter is likely going to be Trouble.

The fun thing about having my own blog, is being able to choose not to engage with jerks if I don't want to! It's an entitlement I freely exercise and advocate.