Saturday, July 27, 2013

You're So Hot

I take I-15 to work almost every day. I take the exit for 600 South and I pass a billboard that makes me want to puke, almost every day. This is the billboard:

The first time I saw it I was mainly angry about the objectification issue. I mean, has anyone else noticed that when a guy complements the looks of another man's wife or girlfriend it's often with a tone which is eerily similar to the one he uses to complement his car or new barbeque? I have, and I'm not amused when I see that thought process justified and further normalized by advertising.

I was already angry the first time I saw this billboard. But I drive past it almost every day so I noticed the rest of the sign and became even more upset.

Now, in addition to the implication that a person who is also a wife, and therefore a woman, would be unable to fix an air conditioner, there's the added insult in the fact that this is a advertisement for a company which fixes air conditioners, meaning that the implication is actually that a woman is incapable of making the phone call necessary to get the repair made.

So, you have to ask yourself, why does society think that women are incapable, even of making telephone calls? Maybe because society still sees men as the only humans capable of earning significant money, and therefore, the only humans who should be making calls which will dictate how that money is spent? But that's definitely not true and like it or not, men are going to have to face up to that. See Gina Rinehart. Or maybe they don't see women as incapable anymore, but want us to continue to feel incapable in order to perpetuate the patriarchy?

I don't know... but I do know that even as a wife, I am perfectly capable of assessing a situation, checking our bank account (to which I have contributed about 50% throughout our marriage), and calling a repair person. Not only that, but give me the tools and instructions and I bet you I could fix the damn thing myself (shout out to my mom and daddy, who aren't sexist asshats, and taught me how to do things to keep me safe and comfortable regardless of if they were "girl things" or "boy things")!

While all that makes me pretty mad, I think the thing that makes me most frustrated is the fact that they could have kept their joke and not been all anti-women at the same time! The billboard could have said:

You're so hot,
fix your air conditioner!

See! Now it's funny, charming, and not misogynistic! The funny part, the misdirection, is still there, but it isn't discriminatory, based on gender anymore.

So why didn't they do that in the first place? I wish I knew. Which is why I sent them an email to ask about it.

In my email I simply pointed out why the sign is sexist and offensive and expressed my confidence in the possibility that the sexism hadn't been recognized. I also kinda asked them to take it down. 
Here is the response I received back:

"Hello Jenna,
Thank you for sharing your feelings about the sixth south billboard.  We have run this
particular campaign off and on for approximately seven years.  We have received hundreds
of compliments and no compaints during the campaigns.
Aside from branding etc., the goal of our advertising is to try to add some simple humor in an otherwise
boring category to our stressful day-to-day lives.  Though I respect your view, your concerns never
entered our minds.  There is no subtle message intended. 
I apologize if we offended you.  Thank you for your input and we will take it into consideration in the future.

Jackie Weaver

So, I guess mine has been the only complaint about the billboard. I know I don't have many followers here, but if you agree that this billboard is sexist and should be taken down I'm sure Ms. Weaver would like to hear about it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Feminism Ruins Relationships. Or not.

I was on Twitter the other day and saw a post which contained a link to this little gem from Thought Catalog:

First of all, I want to point out that it's obvious the author of this post was trying to remain PC and not ruffle any feathers. She even spends most of the first sentence showcasing her seemingly positive views on feminists.But, by the end of that sentence she's already missed something pretty huge: What kind of "enlightened" women, who sees herself as a "full human being" would WANT to date someone who "isn't on that boat?" Uhm... none of us.

But let's pretend that this whole thing isn't a moot point and analyze all the other (unintentional?) anti-woman elements of this paragraph.

The "someone who isn't on that boat" comment bothers me for another reason too; it seems, to me, to be saying that there exists a valid way of thinking that does not include feminism. Of course, this is untrue. Any person who doesn't think men and women should be equal, who doesn't think that women should be able to control their own lives and bodies, DOES NOT have a valid opinion. Not being on board with feminism isn't the same thing as not being on board with chocolate ice cream.

"But wait," I can already hear some of you saying, "just because a person doesn't want to refer to themselves as a feminist doesn't mean that they aren't in favor of women's rights."
Well, that may be true. However, the author here lists the things that this hypothetical potential partner isn't on board with. She says the person isn't on the boat that recognizes the virtues of women who are "enlightened" about their "gender and sexuality," and the fact that a woman is "a full human being." So really, the only other "boats" out there are the USS Bigotry and USS Misogyny. I think it's a lot more likely that the sexist asshats, who can't accept that women ARE their equals, are a lot more to blame for the failed relationships the author is trying to warn us about.

Which brings me to my next point;  this paragraph is aimed at the wrong party. Feminism isn't responsible for doomed relationships, misogyny and sexism is. Since none of the rest of the points in the article were particularly aimed at women, it wouldn't have messed up the flow of the article at all to change the focus of this point to be more accurate and less horrifyingly sexist.

The problem is the culture. I'm sure the author did research to write this post and found some study somewhere that had the same backward focus. Since our society doesn't question misogyny nearly as often as it questions feminism, she probably just didn't think too much about it and wrote the point. That's what we need to change. We HAVE to think about things we see, things we read, things we hear people say, things we say ourselves. Like I said before, I feel like this author tried to write the point in a way that didn't put women down, but she needed to have tried harder. We all need to try harder.

That being said, I offer you a rewrite!

3. Sexism.

Being sexist can be a poison to any given relationship, especially if you are dating a woman who is enlightened about her own gender and sexuality and what it means to be a full human being in the world that sometimes wants to stop at "bearer of uterus." You are going to have some problems dating someone like that if you aren't willing to rise above the culture and view women as equal human beings. If she is constantly having to explain to you that catcalls are not flattering, and that abortion shouldn't even be a question (and having to take refuge in the comments section of feminist websites to keep her sanity), you already know it's over.
P.S. If this describes you, stop being such an asshat.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Woman" by 1/2-E featuring... ME!

Today you all get a little information about my life; I've been married for three years (as of yesterday) and my husband is a hip hop artist. He released an album last year and today we released the music video to one of his songs. So, what does that have to do with feminism and my blog? Well, the song is called Woman and it's about domestic violence. Henry, my husband wrote the song as if he is the woman in an abusive relationship. It's meant to be a statement about the overwhelming amount of violence toward women in our society and the fact that men don't often think about how it must feel to be in a situation like that.

Anyway, if you can handle some explicit lyrics, the message is pretty amazing and it certainly will make you think. Also, the chorus, yeah I sang it :)

Here it is, without further introduction: Woman!

If you are struggling with feelings of Suicide please call the National Suicide Helpline at
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

If you are in a dangerous situation and/or an abusive relationship call
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

If you have been a victim of sexual violence you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at
1-800-656-HOPE (4673) 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Stunning Similarites Between Rape and Theft

Any of you who know very much about the epidemic of sexual violence in our culture has probably heard this kind of argument:

If you leave your car unlocked, with a bunch of money sitting on the front seat you are partly responsible for the loss if that money is stolen. And it's the same with sexual violence, including rape; if you do not take the necessary precautions to keep yourself safe (ex: not drinking to much, not going out alone, not wearing revealing clothing) you are partly responsible for the violence that could be perpetrated against you.

Hearing this makes me livid for  several reasons and I'm going to rant about them all now.

#1- How the hell are you going to compare losing some money to losing your sense of safety, sanity, and value as a human being???? This kind of argument trivializes sexual violence, making it seem even remotely comparable to having money stolen.
Now, I can already feel the comments coming in about how having your car broken into DOES take away your sense of safety and sanity. About how the potential damage to the car in conjunction with the loss of the money could mean lasting and significant struggles. But please refrain from leaving these comparative comments unless you happen to have had your money stolen before AND been a victim of sexual violence. Because you can't possibly understand how completely ridiculous your assessment of the comparison is otherwise.  

#2- You would not be held responsible for money stolen from an unlocked car. You would report it to the police, who would open an investigation and would be committed to finding the criminal. While there are obviously going to be exceptions to this, it is generally the case. You may be made to feel a bit foolish, but it would be obvious to everyone, including yourself, that the only person who really did something WRONG was the person who stole your money.
This is, overwhelmingly often, not the case with sexual violence. First of all, it is estimated that less than half of rapes are even reported. Rape is very likely the most unreported crime in our nation. ( This is, at least partly, because our culture makes victims of sexual violence feel responsible for the crime. Unlike the theft example, wherein the victim feels foolish, but knows that he/she didn't do anything wrong themselves, victims of sexual violence are made to feel like they did do something wrong to cause the crime. This feeling is reinforced by the incredibly low conviction rate of these criminals and the lack of enforcement of laws which are supposed to protect victims (more on that in another post).

#3- We are all responsible for our own actions, and we are not responsible for the actions of others. Which means that if a woman chooses to go out alone with people she doesn't know well, drink too much, and wear a tight fitting, cleavage showing, mini dress she is responsible for all those choices. She will be responsible for her own hangover, being too cold, and possibly for some awkward conversations due to the lack of friends out with her.
However, she will not be responsible for the actions of someone else, perhaps someone who criminally (yes, criminally) ignores the fact that she is too intoxicated to be able to consent to having sex.
When we think about it this way it becomes obvious that not only is a person not responsible for their own rape, but that a person isn't responsible for having their money stolen either. So, the theft example becomes a moot point anyway. 

I don't have ANY idea why we seem to want to allow criminals to get away with less responsibility and consequence than they deserve, but we ARE doing it, and it's at the expense of victims.

Think about it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

"The husband has his trophy" -- WTF?

I'm kind of reading a self help book. It's about relationships. I got it as a wedding gift and I read a bit of it back then, but I put it down after a few chapters because it was too religiously inspired for my personal tastes. But I pulled it out the other day for a couple of reasons, first of all, I just started writing my first self help book (it's going to be a collection of "Recovery Challenges") and I needed formatting ideas. Secondly, this book is supposed to help you show love more effectively and that can't be a bad thing right?

Anyway, I was flipping through this book and I happened upon this bit,

"But for most couples, things begin to change after marriage. The wife finally has her man; the husband has his trophy." 

Uhm... what? It's pretty frustrating to read that as the "wife" in the scenario. The wife gets her man but the husband doesn't get his woman, he gets his trophy. He doesn't have a person to share his life with, he has an object to be admired. An object is something you own. Therefore, the common use of terms which objectify women exacerbates the cultural belief that women can be possessed, that we are not our own autonomous beings. Our culture does not believe that men and women are equal in terms of self ownership.

One of the direct consequences of this cultural belief is sexual violence toward women. When a woman is seen as an object it becomes considerably less important to gain consent for sexual acts. Even a clear refusal can become "gray area" to a person who allows this mindset of male ownership to guide him, "I bought her dinner, took her dancing, paid for this hotel room, she can't possibly actually mean 'No.'" As if the money he spent also pays for her body.

Of course, we know that it does not. A woman is not a trophy to be won or bought and her decision to accept dinner is not the same as her decision to have sex or not have sex.

But until objectifying language is no longer used to describe women we will continue to have this problem in our culture. The biggest problem is that the language and the actions are cyclical; when women are treated like objects people talk about them as objects. When people hear women being talked about as objects, they start to treat women like objects.And on and on it goes.

But we can make a difference here, we need to be more aware of the words and phrases we use, We need to call out sexism and objectification wherever we see it. If we can stop the language, we are on our way to stopping the mind set and the behaviors.