27 May 2010

This is what happens when I don't write a post for a while.

I have too much to talk about! So, more linkspam. Sorry 'bout that. But this time with more crunchy commentary!

From FWD, one of the ableist words of the day: Crazy.
Crazy is often used – even, still, by me and other feminists – to negatively describe ideas, writing, or other nouns that the speaker finds disagreeable. Conservatives are “crazy”, acts of oppression are “crazy making” , this winter’s snow is “craziness”. This usage makes a direct connection between mental disability and bad qualities of all stripes, turning disability itself into a negative descriptor. Whether it means “bad” or “evil” or “outlandish” or “illogical” or “unthinkable”, it’s turning the condition of having a disability into an all-purpose negative descriptor. When using crazy as a synonym for violent, disturbing, or wrong, it’s saying that PWMD are violent, disturbing, wrong. It’s using disability as a rhetorical weapon.
[Trigger warning for descriptions of violence against women and rape.]

Via Feministing, men who batter women overestimate how much other men abuse women.
The work is the first to document overestimation of intimate partner violence by batterers and is consistent with findings about a variety of other harmful behaviors such as substance use, gambling, and eating disorders. This line of research looks at social norms, or what is considered to be appropriate and inappropriate behavior in society.

“Social norms theory suggests that people act in a way that they believe is consistent with what the average person does,” adds Denise Walker, research professor of social work and co-director of the Innovative Programs Research Group.

The research looked at 124 men who were enrolled in a larger treatment intervention study for domestic violence. The men, all of whom had participated in violence against a partner in the previous 90 days, were asked to estimate the percentage of men who had ever engaged in seven forms of abuse.

These included throwing something at a partner that could hurt; pushing, grabbing, or shoving a partner; slapping or hitting; choking; beating up a partner; threatening a partner with a gun; and forcing a partner have sex when they did not want to.


In every case the men vastly overestimated the actual instances of abuse. For example, the participants on average thought 27.6 percent of men had thrown something with the intent of hurting a partner while the actual number is 11.9 percent. Similarly, they believed 23.6 percent of men had forced their partner to have sex involuntary compared to 7.9 percent in reality.
This is unsurprising, and not just because of social norms theory. Feminists have been saying for a long time (like, longer than I've been alive) that we live in a rape culture, a culture that condones and encourages violence against women. Is it really so unbelievable that men who abuse women translate misogynistic jokes as signs that other men hate women, too? Is it really so unbelievable that these men, who abuse or rape their partners, think they're normal? Why wouldn't they? Everything from offhand remarks or jokes made by other (even feminist!) men, to television shows making a joke out of stalking, to advertising campaigns (to PETA), to attempts by police, regular people, judgescampus officials, and the Catholic Church to ignore or apologize for actual rape and abuse supports their belief: rape and abuse are normal; normal men hate women. That's what rape culture does. It gives these men room to commit their crimes (knowing always that their victims, not them, will face blame, disbelief, and a lack of support) by allowing them to believe that they are normal. I was once told by some men (on the internet!) that making misogynistic jokes doesn't harm anyone because mature men know the difference between a joke and an insult, a rapist and a non-rapist. (They seemed unconcerned with the fact that they very likely know a woman who is has been sexually assaulted and might be triggered by their jokes.) And while I think it's important to leave room for humor, I don't (shockingly) think it's helpful for men to assume that they don't know any secret misogynists (say, one who phrases all their misogyny in joke-form and also private violence?) and give the impression to other men that they sort of hate women. If violence against women was, you know, RARE, this would be slightly different. But making jokes about rape or slapping women around or how women are whiny bitches who are really only good for fucking (amiright fellas?) when 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and 1 million women are stalked annually and most women who experience violence do so at the hand of a partner or family member? Not okay. (Believe or not, the men on the internet did not buy my logic! Because I am a crazy overemotional bitch. But they are decent, non-misogynist men, they tell me! That means their opinion about my mental state is VALID.) "But but but!" they said, "We are decent men! Men who can joke and laugh at sexist commercials without it affecting our treatment of women [doubtful, but let's grant that this could be true of some feminist men]! It is not fair to limit our fun-having just because some men hate women! [Actually, it is. Your right to make or laugh at douchey jokes should be trumped by the right of women to exist in your vicinity without feeling uncomfortable and unsafe.] Men who perpetuate violence against women are fucked up in the head. It's not fair to compare us to them!" I agree that men who assault women are fucked up in the head. But here's the deal: I can not tell you apart. Which I know you probably find infinitely annoying. But, you tell the same jokes. You're both likely to ignore it if I'm experiencing sexism in front of your face. You're both likely to tell me to just shut up and stop being so political if I point out that the Superbowl commercials are so offensive I can't even enjoy them or that Scott Neustadter is a total douche for writing (500) Days of Summer. You act the same! That is a problem! And it is your problem! I can't tell the Nice GuysTM from the nice guys, or the rapists from the non-rapists, and it is not because my poor lady brain is not equipped with the appropriate observation skills! Do you know why the men in this study think they're normal? It's not because they are, but because you allow them to occupy the same social circles that you do! You, men on the internet who desperately cling to your right to tell offensive jokes without being labelled an asshole, don't tell them they're being assholes! And why not? Because then you would have to reevaluate your own behavior. And god no, not THAT. That is a fate worse than death.

Vintage sexism: Kissing is for whores! This video is hilariously disturbing. Creepiest dad ever.

More vintage sexism: Ads I will show my stepdad next time he's nostalgic about the 1950s.

From The Sexist, why chivalry is decidedly Not a Good Thing.
Chivalry encourages a form of preemptive internalized misogyny that results in the policing of women, how they dress, where they go, how much hair they show, and whether they stand up for themselves when harassed or assaulted. In the future, the woman harassed by the firemen may dress more conservatively, or avoid standing on the street corner alone, in order to prevent her husband from ever being associated with someone who is confused for “a hooker”. A woman may choose to wear a headscarf in order to preempt any shame being brought to her husband. And a woman who is victimized by a man may not speak out, in order to avoid the chivalrous man-next-door from starting a fist-fight—or criticizing her for somehow encouraging the harassment.

Chivalry works to unfairly displace misogyny onto men. But focusing solely on that particular failure of chivalry ignores the obvious truth—that misogyny is unfair for everyone. Women, too!
From Shitty First Drafts, Why I’m Not Proud of You for Correcting Other People’s Grammar:
But when people find out I’m an English teacher, they often say, “I have a grammar question for you.” Asking someone to give you free professional advice when they are not at work and just looking to enjoy casual conversation with their dry martini is, of course, total etiquette fail. But it gets even douchier when people want to tell me all about how they go ahead and correct other people’s grammar every chance they get. This happened with my new dentist, who, while digging around in my mouth with metal objects, regaled me with stories about how he calls people out–family members, friends, patients, probably also panhandlers with poorly copyedited signs–for using adverbs incorrectly. Adverb usage: apparently one of the Big Problems Today, along with oil rigs asploding in the Gulf and poverty and such. It’s like these people are part of a Douchebag Club and think they have recognized me as one of their own. To which I have this to say: I am not. I am not, in fact, proud of you for being a dick to the people around you. Now don’t get me wrong, I am sort of a dick sometimes, but this is one area of dickery I just don’t touch. I equate it to going around at a party criticizing everyone’s food and drink selection. No one likes that guy. We edge away from him and talk about him behind his back. Like food selections at parties, speech patterns are both a function of personal taste and what’s available to us. Not only is grammar correcting just plain rude, it’s soaked in classism, regional chauvinism, and privilege.

It bothers me that some people think that this is what I do all day: copyedit my student’s documents and then take my work home with me by copyediting conversations with family and friends. That sounds joyless. And stupid. What I really do is research American literature and religion because I find it fascinating. Then I teach my students about literature and religion and try to find ways to make it fascinating for them. I also attempt to teach them to do fabulous things with words, things that are full of joy, as well as insight, nuance, and gravitas. In short, I love my job, but grammar has precious little to do with it (“it” being both my job and why I like it).
Ladysquires doesn't argue that clarity is not important, but that people who harp on grammar and spelling in everyday conversation are assholes whose concerns aren't communication so much as using their privilege to dismiss you without engaging with what you're saying. A great example of this is Arizona's newest choad move: firing teachers with foreign accents. From Amanda at Pandagon:
According to Think Progress, the man behind this project is Tom Horne, a superintendent who is running for attorney general. His reasoning in this video is specious and laughable to anyone who isn’t a full-blown racist looking for a rationalization. He claims that it’s confusing to students if a teacher pronounces “comma” like “coh-ma”. The underlying assumption is that there’s only one right way to pronounce any word in English, something that isn’t true even within the United States, much less across different accents in the English-speaking world. For instance, am I more or less American because I pronounce the pronoun “I” like “Ah” instead “Eye”? Those are actually pretty different, and yet we expect people to learn that both are acceptable. People like Horne may be able to fool some people that live far away from the Southwest with this act, but for those of us who grew up there, it’s obvious he’s full of shit. A fluent English speaker with a Spanish accent isn’t hard to understand, and they’re the ones being targeted. Whining that some people drop the ending sounds in words is particularly stupid, since that’s how pretty much everyone in the South speaks, and no one is claiming you can’t understand them.
The method used here is essentially accusing teachers with foreign accents of poor grammar. If someone's grammar, pronunciation, spelling, etc. aren't absolutely perfect, the grammar police claim, then no one can understand them! Which is, as Amanda points out, usually total bullshit. It's not about communication, but about dismissing people without having to listen to or engage with what they say.

Next post: Doctor Who! Again!


brittany kalaj margulieux said...

I really feel skeezy after that vid...

Ladysquires said...

Thanks for the link! I found your blog several weeks ago through The Sexist and have been lurking ever since. Being a feminist academic from Central Texas myself, just the name of your blog had me hooked.

Unknown said...

So, if I open the door for my girlfriend does that mean I'm a misogynist?

Courtney said...

That depends, Lane. Do you also open the door for other people? (Like, male people?)

I open the door for others all the time, and it turns sometimes into this ridiculous power play with men. Some of them *won't* go through a door opened by a woman. The best reaction is when they do go through the door, but give me a dirty look as they do it. Classy!

Chris said...

How goes the Doctor Who viewing and podcast listening?

Courtney said...


Um, I haven't listened to DW podcasts in forever! I have a list in my phone, but precious little time and patience (I'm not the best listener without any visuals). I just started my French class, and my summer to do list is starting to give me a panic attack. I can't guarantee I'll be listening to podcasts again until the semester starts in August.

But I'm working on a DW post about an episode this season. I'll post it soon!