Sexism

Sexism is ugly

I am very angry at the moment.

I bet you think you know what I’m going to say here – I mean, as the devoted reader of my blog that I’m sure you are, it’s no secret that I’m a staunch feminist.  I’m basically a pro-life feminazi(*).

But that’s not what I’m going to talk about today.

My husband got yelled at for being an inadequate parent.  What did he do?  Oh he’s a stepdad.  That’s it.  That’s literally the reason he’s an inadequate parent.  Never mind that the biological father, the “real” father, of the child in question is an asshole (which is, incidentally, why I don’t even talk to him anymore after the divorce).  Never mind that it was my husband who potty-trained this child, who tried to teach her ABC’s before kindergarten, who drives her to school when she oversleeps and misses her bus, who taught her how to do laundry and dishes, who taught her how to cook mac n’ cheese for herself, who keeps a secret stash of pop tarts in the house for her(**), who plays the Wii-U with her, who taught her how to work through frustration and bad sportsmanship …. No.  None of that matters.  Because he’s a step-dad.  He’s not a “real” parent.

And we all know how men just aren’t any good with children that aren’t, you know, theirs, right?  It’s just a universal biological fact, totally hard-wired in, and we just can’t expect men to do what doesn’t come naturally, right?  Except when they actually do things that blow this awful stereotype out of the water, and then we don’t believe what we’re seeing.  Can’t be possible.  I don’t need to look at the evidence because the evidence doesn’t matter anyway.  It’s just a known fact.

In other news, it’s “just a known fact” that the world is flat and that the sun revolves around the earth.  But here’s the difference – the earth isn’t offended because of faulty assumptions about it.  It just keeps on being (roughly) spherical, rotating and orbiting around the sun and generally being its bad self.  It’s one of the perks of being, oh I dunno, a planet that doesn’t have to actually interact with people to do its job.

But when you make assumptions about my husband, you hurt his ability to be an effective parent.  You question everything he does and you tell him he’s wrong just because he’s a stepdad, you don’t just hurt him.  You also hurt me, because I need him to be effective in his role in order for me to be effective in my role as a provider and breadwinner.  You also hurt my children, because they see that it’s okay to treat their dad like that, and because you tell them that he’s not “really” their dad, despite the fact that he’s a better dad than the person you would consider the “real” dad.

No one questions my ability to be a parent.  Because I’m female.  Because I’m their mother.  As if there’s some something magical in my ovaries that grants me the ability to be a parent.  Here’s a clue:  you know why I’m a good mother?  Because I have actively worked at doing things a good mother does every day for the past 12 years.  Practice makes perfect – THAT is what makes me a good mother.  And I get lots of practice.  But here’s the thing – my husband has had a lot of practice being a dad.  It has been his full-time job for over 6 years now.  He knows what he’s doing and I trust him.

How dare you assume that you’re going to have a different conversation with her mother?  How dare you assume that he and I didn’t decide things together as her parents and caretakers?  What kind of an idiot rants and raves about the supposed limits of men’s capabilities and then verbally skewers the embodiment of the person who is better than apparently every man they have known?

I have a radical idea – how about we interact with people as individuals instead of judging them on what’s between their legs?  Never ranted about that before or anything.

(*) I have always thought the term “feminazi” has a lovely ring to it, ever since I heard it on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show as a kid, and I will probably never retire it.

(**) I’m not supposed to know about this, so SHHHHHH!!! Don’t tell my husband.

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It’s a woman’s world, apparently

I read a few related things lately, and some thoughts started rolling around.  Just so you get a sense of the overall sentiment that I’m responding to, the things I read are here, here, here, and here.  I’ll cherry-pick some quotes at the end, but first some general thoughts –

So it seems that for thousands of years, people (male and female) basically trudged about their business because we collectively lacked the spare time to contemplate how we each got a raw deal in the social order.  Then women started to speak up.  Now whether this was because women got the worse end of the deal or because women can communicate better – not a debate I want to have right now.  The fact remains that feminism happened.  “Pardon me, sir, but wouldn’t it be jolly good if I could own property in my own name?  While you’re at it, it would be really awesome if I had access to the same employment opportunities men do so I have an option to get my children and myself out of an abusive marriage without starving to death.  And if you’re feeling REALLY generous, you can start judging me on my capabilities as an individual rather than what’s between my legs.”

So there were some sputters and starts and even today there is STILL some resistance to these basic ideas, but by and large women got what they needed.  And women also got affirmation and encouragement for however they wanted to express their femininity – whether it be with lace and fake nails or short hair and weightlifting. (I’m oversimplifying because I don’t want to write another 300 pages.  And if you’re honest with yourself, you don’t want to read another 300 pages, either. )

And men didn’t get that encouragement – it was presumed that men didn’t need any affirmation.  After all, they were the default.  And the default isn’t ignored, per se – it’s taken for granted.  The default doesn’t get recognition or affirmation for being the default.

Also, they never asked for it.  The age-old stereotype of men being dismissive of their wives’ feelings and neglectful of their wives’ needs … now men are talking about how THEY have dismissed feelings and neglected needs, too.  How does it feel?  Do men take this as a lesson in how to be a better human being?  “Gee, maybe women have a point about needing affirmation and maybe I should not be a jerk because now I know how it feels.  And maybe I should be a grownup and ask for what I need.”  Some men take it that way, but other men react like “Women are eeeevil!  How dare they get their needs met!  What about meeeeee?”

So – are men getting what they need?  Some men don’t think so.  The world has become too “feminized.”  Men need to be MEN!  Masculinity is GREAT!  Men have NEEDS!  And oh by the way feminism is EVIL because it ignores and diminishes the needs of MEN!

Slow down – let’s back up a bit.  The whole point of feminism was that women are not all the same;  women have different interests and abilities and should have the freedom to pursue them and should be paid the same as a man doing the same work.  But the idea behind the emangelists(*) is that in the most important ways, men ARE all the same.  That’s a big reason there’s such a huge disconnect between feminists and emangelists – women fought for the right to be seen as individuals instead of a monolithic bloc and now men are fighting for the right to be seen as a monolithic bloc.  Do you see why this doesn’t make a lot of sense to feminists?

Maybe we should do a better job of affirming EVERYONE in a way that recognizes their contribution as individuals and allows them to own their unique masculine or feminine identity.  Susie being the breadwinner for her family is a valid expression of her femininity just as Johnny being the stay-at-home parent is a valid expression of his masculinity.  Samantha is “woman enough” being a professional bodybuilder and Jack is “man enough” being a nurse.

Sure, men can be valiant conquerors with majestic beards and BIG MUSCLES – if that’s how you want to be a man, so be it.  What you don’t get to do, though, is pretend that YOUR masculinity is the ONLY way to be masculine.  You ALSO don’t get to advocate a return to the “good old days” and dismiss the very real problems of a system where women don’t have the same legal rights and recourse as men do.  You don’t get to pretend that your needs and priorities are hard-wired in and universal to males as a whole.  ASK for what you need and find a spouse / companion / group of friends that provide those things.  And turn around and provide what your spouse / companion / group of friends need, too.

(*) I’m speaking of the best, most genuine, intellectually honest representations of both feminism and men’s rights.  But because men’s rights is inextricably linked with extremism in my mind, I’m going to refer to it as “emangelization” after one of the sites I linked to – New Emangelization.  Also because it’s a catchy-sounding name.


Now to the cherry-picking:

From Cardinal Burke:

The Church becomes very feminized. …The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved.  Men are often reluctant to become active in the Church. The feminized environment and the lack of the Church’s effort to engage men has led many men to simply opt out.

Last I checked, there was still a dude in fancy liturgical vestments oh, I dunno, acting in persona Christi and saying the Mass.  And that’s not nothing!

But to Cardinal Burke’s actual point, there’s a pretty detailed post and discussion of this on a scale broader than the Catholic Church over here on patheos.  When I think of my own parish, there are a lot of women involved as religious ed teachers (of which I am one). But I think that probably has more to do with how gender roles still work in our society as opposed to a “feminization” of the Church.

Of the women who are teaching, the vast majority of them are retired / stay-at-home parents / work part-time, so they have MUCH more flexibility with their time. Relatively few of us women have full-time work and still volunteer. But of the men who volunteer, ALL of them have full-time work and still volunteer; there are probably an equal number of men and women who have full-time work and still volunteer.

So to me, the irony is that the solution to the “problem” of “feminization” is more feminism – free men and women from the constraints of gender roles and you will likely have a different gender distribution.

Also from Cardinal Burke:

The introduction of girl servers also led many boys to abandon altar service. Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural. The girls were also very good at altar service. So many boys drifted away over time.

A couple of things are going on here – first, I think there’s a lot of assumptions here about what is “natural” and universal and what is encouraged.  Even as a kid in elementary school, I got along better with the boys than the girls.  I played soccer and kickball with the boys at recess, and I read He-Man books with the boys during free time.  My involvement in these activities didn’t seem to bother the boys at all, and they certainly didn’t “drift away” over time.  Second, there’s an idea that because the girls do something better than the boys, the boys become discouraged and give up.  Why?  I thought Men™ liked challenge and competition and liked to conquer things?  Why wouldn’t the boys let the girls’ skill inspire them to get better?  So clearly we’re a little fuzzy on what, exactly, the universal nature of Men™ is, if such a thing exists (which I don’t think it does).

Again from Cardinal Burke:

Men are facing great temptations, particularly, as I mentioned due to pornography and confusion about sexuality and desperately need to be taught how to battle these temptations in Christ.

As a former teenage girl, I can tell you that a teenage girl’s sex drive is all-consuming and makes it VERY difficult to do anything productive some days.  But the message I got from church and the other pro-purity materials that got passed around my circle was that women don’t have sex drives.  Not really – women might THINK they want sex, but they REALLY want love.  But because men have SUCH a sex drive, it’s up to the girls to protect the boys from themselves through modesty and through always having to be on guard and always having to be the ones to say “no” to sex.

It’s all well and good to say that men are “facing great temptations,” but even now the “great temptations” that women face are COMPLETELY ignored and dismissed with a “Oh you just don’t UNDERSTAND.  Men have it SO much worse.”  Purity messaging hasn’t really changed at all in the last 20 years.

So I have to protect the boys from themselves but I get to wrangle my sex drive on my own without even an acknowledgment that it exists?  Color me unimpressed.

More Cardinal Burke:

Everyone understands that women have and can be abused by men. Men who abuse women are not true men, but false men who have violated their own manly character by being abusive to women.

You don’t get to dismiss the possibility of domestic violence with a verbal wave of your hand.  For some of us, domestic violence is a reality we lived through, and the ONLY reason we are alive and successful today is because of the “radical feminism” that pushes for things like equal pay for equal work, daycare assistance programs, and women’s resource centers.

Yes – women’s resource centers.  If you have more obligations put on you, you need more help.  Statistically, if a woman is abusive, the man leaves with little to no ill effects; he goes and gets another place to live with the uninterrupted income from the job that he had all along and generally moves on with his life.  When a man is abusive, the woman is left destitute.  Oh – and she has to take care of the kids, too.  So she needs to feed them, and she needs to secure childcare, and she needs a place to live -and all that requires money that doesn’t have.  Child support (when you can collect it) generally doesn’t even begin to close the gap.

When we say things like “structuralized sexism,” we’re not trying to be mean.  All we’re saying is the Way Things Are™ set up by men back when it was ONLY men’s priorities that mattered and there was ONLY ONE WAY to be a man works very well for men (duh).  That’s why there’s no men’s resource centers – the whole world is your men’s resource center.

And one more from Cardinal Burke:

We have to be very clear with men about purity, chastity, modesty and even the way men dress and present themselves. Men’s behaviors and dress matter, for it affects how they relate to the world and it affects the culture. Men need to dress and act like men in a way that is respectful to themselves, to women and to children.

YES!!! Did you see that?!!! Cardinal Burke just said that MEN need to be modest, too!!!  I’m so glad to see someone FINALLY say that men need to be modest and it’s not just women!!!!  I’m sorry, am I using too many exclamation points?!!!!

From the comments on the Breitbart articles (here and here):

Women are horrible!  I’ve had so many awful experiences with women who expected the world from me and didn’t give anything in return!  Today’s women are worthless.  I’m done with women!  And some bitter, angry feminist will probably come along and call me a ‘whining man-baby’ for speaking the truth!

(A mixture of paraphrasing and combining sentences from several different comments, but the general idea from multiple people is captured fairly.)

“Whining man-baby” – you know how you get that label?  By whining like a baby when you’re a grown-ass man.  So you had a bad experience with a woman or two – good for you!  Welcome to life, where sometimes people are assholes.  Now grow up and get a grip on yourself.  If I were to take a page from your book, I would be ranting and raving about how ALL men are horrible just because I was married to ONE man that was horrible.  What if I came on here and whined about how ALL men are sociopathic assholes that would let their wives and children freeze to death?  ALL men create secret bank accounts and yank money away from their stay-at-home spouses so that they have no money for food?  ALL men throw dishes and glasses around the house when the food you make isn’t exactly what they like – and then the nicks in the drywall are YOUR fault?  ALL men unhook the phone before they start shoving you around so you can’t call for help?  What if I came here and started whining because ALL men are just like my experience with ONE man?  Hmmm?

Fortunately, I’m smarter than that.  You know that spiel about judging people as individuals and not what’s between their legs?  Yeah – I actually practice what I preach there – imagine that!

In closing, 

– There are multiple, varied, valid ways to be manly.

– There are multiple, varied, valid ways to be womanly.

– Assuming “feminization” is a problem, the way to fix it is more feminism.

– Ask for what YOU need.  You have no basis for assuming that what YOU need is what ALL men / women need.  If you do that, you would be wrong.

– Men, women are assholes sometimes.  I’m sorry you’ve been through that, but get over it.  If you don’t want to be lumped in with all the asshole men out there, don’t lump all women in with all the asshole women out there.  Goose, meet gander.  I trust you’ll get along.

Agree?  Tell me in the comments.  Disagree?  Keep it to yourself.  Just kidding!  Tell me that, too – nicely, please.