This past semester I had the genuine pleasure of giving my talk about hook up culture to students at my own institution, Occidental College. This was a treat — and also a little bit scary — not only because I was talking to my own community, but because many of the students in the audience had been part of the two studies that informed my talk (here’s one). I wanted to do them justice and make them feel good about their contribution, even if they had mixed feelings about the stories of theirs that I was telling.
In the end, it felt like an incredible catharsis. The students, who I adore, seemed genuinely thrilled that I was there to bring their experiences into the light; whether they were a part of the study or not, they knew that on some level this was about them. Their response was overwhelming. So I post this talk — with relatively bad video and decent audio — but an amazing audience response, as evidence of how receptive college students are to interesting analyses of their lives by (relatively) impartial analysts. And, also: I love you, Oxy! Y’all are my favorite!
So it turns out there’s this company that makes “zombie” targets for gun enthusiasts. They have clown zombies, nazi zombies, “terrorist” zombies, dog zombies and even a green zombie named “Rocky” that has Barack Obama’s ears.
The Zombie virus does not discriminate and neither does Zombie Industries. We take preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse seriously, which is why we strive to have all groups of undead monsters represented in our product selection. In addition to the Ex Girlfriend Zombie, we currently sell 15 male zombies, 5 animal zombies & 2 aliens… to discriminate against Women by not having them represented in our product selection would be just plain sexist.
Each of the zombie targets has a story. Here is the story of “The Ex”:
Be warned, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned but a man scorned is nothing to mess with! A young gent from Louisiana, we’ll call him André to protect his identity, was deeply committed to his one true love and her to him, or so he thought. While partying with her friends during one particular Mardi Gras, she took several suitors over the course of the festivities. André felt something odd indeed, so he paid a visit to his great aunt, Marie, who helped him see the truth. With a few eggs, candles lit and kiss upon his forehead, her voodoo curse was set in motion. Late each night while lying in bed, a smile would appear across his face, for a slight breeze would travel through a cracked window bringing with it, a faint whiff of decay and a unnatural cry of regret.
That’s right. In this narrative, a man kills a woman for cheating on him, and has her turned into a zombie. Which you, bro, are now invited to blow to bits.
Despite the game-like zombie theme, it is notable that the single human female representation has been created specifically as a target of violent male anger towards a woman’s ownership of her own sexuality. And ”The Ex” is portrayed in a highly sexual way, with what seems to be a bare lower torso and busting out chest.
Policymic writes, “Every day, at least three women are killed by an intimate partner in the US alone. Let’s make sure those numbers go down, not up. Let’s make sure companies like Zombies Industries know that we’re not buying it.”
Some people, however, are buying it. And this is what’s most troubling.
From the product reviews:
This Zombie Bitch is awesome, reminds me of a girl I knew in High School, My LMT LM308MWS should put a stop to the undead bring them on !!! Later Party till you drop Corvette forever !!!!!
I love that this target looks like Britney Spears and it bleeds when I shot it.
And from YouTube:
Tom Megginson is a Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. He is a specialist in social marketing, cause marketing, and corporate social responsibility. You can follow Tom at workthatmatters.blogspot.com.
Let me ask you a question: Do you have a good friend of the opposite sex?
Odds are you do. In fact, the odds are overwhelming.
When I first began teaching, 25 or so years ago, I asked my students how many of them had a good friend of the opposite sex. About 10% said they did. The rest were from what I called the When Harry Met Sally generation. You’ll remember the scene, early in the film, when Harry asserts that women and men can’t be friends because “sex always gets in the way.” Sally is sure he’s wrong. They fight about it. Then, thinking she has the clincher for her position, she says, confidently, “So that means that you can be friends with them if you’re not attracted to them!”
“Ah,” says Harry, “you pretty much want to nail them too.”
Young people today have utterly and completely repudiated this idea. These days, when I ask my students, I’ve had to revise the question: “Is there anyone here who does not have a friend of the opposite sex?” A few hands perhaps, in the more than 400 students in the class.
But let’s think, for a moment, about the “politics” of friendship. With whom do you make friends? With your peers. Not your supervisor or boss. Not your subordinate. Your equal. More than romance, and surely more than workplace relationships, friendships are the relationships with the least amount of inequality.
This changes how we can engage men in the efforts to end sexual assault, because there are three elements to sexual assault that can be discussed and disentangled.
First is m en’s sense of entitlement to women’s bodies, to sex. This sense of entitlement dissolves in the face of an encounter with your friends. After all, entitlement is premised on inequality. The more equal women are, the less entitlement men may feel. (Entitlement is not to be confused with resentment; equality often breeds resentment in the privileged group. The privileged rarely support equality because they fear they have something to lose.) Entitlement leads men to think that they can do whatever they want.
Second, the Bro Code tells those guys that they’re right – that they can get away with it because their bros won’t challenge or confront them. The bonds of brotherhood demand men’s silent complicity with predatory and potentially assaultive behavior. One never rats out the brotherhood. But if we see our female friends as our equals, then we might be more likely to act ethically to intervene and resist being a passive bystander. (And, of course, we rescue our male friends from doing something that could land him in jail for a very long time.)
Men’s silence is what perpetuates the culture of sexual assault; many of the excellent programs that work to engage men suggest that men start making some noise. We know the women, or know people who know them. This is personal.
Finally, we’re better than that – and we know it.
Sexual assault is often seen as an abstraction, a “bad” thing that happens to other people: Bad people do bad things to people who weren’t careful, were drunk or compromised. But, as I said, it’s personal. And besides, this framing puts all the responsibility on women to monitor their activities, alcohol consumption, and environments; if they don’t, whose fault is it?
This sets the bar far too low to men. It assumes that unless women monitor and police everything they do, drink, say, wear etc., we men are wild, out of control animals and we cannot be held responsible for our actions.
Surely we can do better than this. Surely we can be the good and decent and ethical men we say we are. Surely we can promise, publicly and loudly, the pledge of the White Ribbon Campaign (the world’s largest effort to engage men to end men’s violence against women): I pledge never to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women and girls.
Our friends – both women and men – deserve and expect no less of us.
“You just have to be cheerful about it and not get upset when you get insulted,” said rocket scientist Yvonne Brill.
She must be chuckling in heaven, because her obituary at the New York Times made the common mistake of making her femaleness and femininity a central part of their retrospective. After objections, NYT corrected the obit. Here are the tracked changes, courtesy of NewsDiffs:
At Feministe, Caperton offers a nice discussion of this phenomenon and draws our attention to the Finkbeiner Test, named after journalist Ann Finkbeiner. Inspired by the Bechdel Test for movies, the Finkbeiner Test is used to judge whether stories about women focus excessively on the fact that they are women. To pass the test, the story cannot mention:
The fact that she’s a woman
Her husband’s job
Her child care arrangements
How she nurtures her underlings
How she was taken aback by the competitiveness in her field
How she’s such a role model for other women
How she’s the “first woman to…”
We’ve documented lots of instances of the men-are-people and women-are-women phenomenon. It’s no wonder it shows up in obituaries too. I’m glad that we’re becoming sensitive enough to the issue to notice it and that institutions like the NYT are responsive enough to change the most egregious examples of it. Next step: prevention.
Yesterday two juvenile men were convicted of rape, one was convicted of distributing a nude photo of a minor (NPR). The response by a segment of society reflects rape culture: ”an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture” (source). Below are a series of concrete examples. Trigger warning for rape apologists and victim blaming.
CNN coverage of the verdict spends six minutes on how sad the conviction is for the rapists:
It was incredibly emotional… to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as, as they believed their life fell apart.
Over at Feministing, Maya Dusenbery made a great observation about the conservative response to Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime show. Conservatives widely criticized her for sexually objectifying herself. She made her “sex appeal the main attraction,” said one commentator, who said that Beyoncé “humping the stage and flashing her lady bits to the camera” made her “sad.” Another said that her performance was “tasteless and unedifying.”
Dusenbery notes that the definition of sexual objectification is the reduction of a person to their sex appeal only. And, ironically, this is what the conservative commentators did to Beyoncé, not something she did to herself. Sexual objectification is not found in a person’s clothing choices or dance moves; instead:
[Objectification is] watching Beyoncé’s show — where she demonstrated enormous professional skill by singing live, with an awesome all-women band I might add, while dancing her ass off in front of millions of people — and not being able to see anything besides her sexy outfit.
Indeed, these conservative commentators are arguing that Beyoncé’s talent can only be fully be appreciated in the absence of sex appeal (whatever that might look like). And that is the problem. Dusenbery continues:
These commentators reflect a “culture in which too many people seem to find it difficult to understand that it is possible to simultaneously find a woman sexually attractive and treat her like a full human being deserving of basic respect.”
Right on. To me, Beyoncé’s performance — along with those of her band mates and fellow dancers and singers — embodied strength and confidence; the pleasure of being comfortable in one’s own skin and the ability to use your body to tell a story; and the power that comes from being admired for the talents you’ve worked so hard to cultivate. I don’t see how you could watch this and only see a sexual object:
Last month the New York Post ran with this unflattering cover photo of Hillary Clinton responding strongly to congressional questioning and the tagline “No Wonder Bill’s Afraid.”
The not-so-subtle sexist messages include:
Even if you’re secretary of state in the most powerful country in the world, it’s not alright to get angry if you’re a woman;
when a powerful woman raises her voice to make a point, she is out of control — “exploding with rage”;
and when a man is married to a powerful woman, even a man who used to lead the free world, he is automatically cowed by her.
Despite rapid gains in women’s political and corporate leadership since the 1970s, powerful women are still held to the damaging double-bind of appearing “properly” masculine in order to appear
leaderly and “properly” feminine so as to not violate social expectations.
The Ethical Adman’s Tom Meggison sent along a new ad campaign by Molson. The campaign coins the word “guyet,” a supposedly masculine alternative to “diet.”
If dieting is working out in order to be thin, then guyeting is “working out to justify eating the foods you love… Bacon, nachos, and burgers.”
There’s a very simple thing going on here: things associated with women are NOT-FOR-MEN, so anything that rings feminine must be covered in bacon, dipped in beer batter, and fried masculinized. See, for lots of examples, our Pinterest page on the phenomenon with almost 100 examples.
Importantly, this isn’t just about maintaining a strong distinction between men and women, it’s about maintaining gender inequality. We disparage and demean femininity, which is why men want to avoid it. Listen to the tone of voice that the narrator uses when saying the word “diet” at 21 seconds:
Dieting is stupid ’cause girls and everything associated with girls is stupid. Guyeting is awesome ’cause guys are awesome.
The reverse doesn’t apply. Women who do things men like to do — drink whiskey, play sports, become surgeons, have dogs, etc — somehow rise in our esteem. Men’s worth, in contrast, is harmed by their association with femininity. This is a layer of gender inequality above and beyond sexism, the privileging of men over women; it’s androcentrism, the privileging of the masculine over the feminine. Since women are required to do femininity, it means being required to do trivial, demeaned, and disparaged things. Meanwhile, men have to come up with stupid excuses for participating in basic healthy activities like going for a jog.