Feminism


Jessica over at feministing.com hits on how I have been feeling about cultural misogyny and the ignorance of it over the last few days.

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I have been putting this post off for a few days thinking that my outrage would subside and then I could find the words to write.  However, three days later, I still find myself consumed with anger, frustration, and shock.

I am talking about the shooting that happened in Pittsburgh at an LA Fitness Club on Tuesday.  The gunman, George Sodini, murdered three women; Heidi Overmier, Elizabeth Gannon, Jody Billingsley after walking into a dance class and opening fire on everyone in the room.  He also injured nine others then killed himself.

What has been discovered after the fact is that this man killed these women because they were women and he hated women.  It has been found (and published) that Sodini kept an online journal, which outlined his misogyny, racism, and ‘exit’ plan.

As I said, I have been struggling with this piece of news for a few days now.  I was first told about it by a co-worker who was sure I would have heard about it already.  When I finally got onto the internet, I had to dig around a bit to find a brief story.  Finally, the feminist blogs I follow had postings.

Now, after a few days of reading, thinking, yelling, and reading some more I am left with an overall feeling that outside of feminist groups…socially…culturally…this is seen as unimportant.  I want to be wrong.

Some news articles have attempted to point out how this is a misogynistic, gender based crime.  That this man had planned for almost a year to mass murder women. However, there are more articles, and hundreds of internet comments, that dismiss this shooting as the actions of an ill individual.  The overall assumption being that we all make our own choices as individuals and are disconnected from any great ideological or power structures that inform our actions.

Sodini was just a sick man who didn’t get any  help.

My thoughts – bull shit.

Allow me to explain.  I have to ask, would he still be ill if he had not walked into a public space with weapons and murdered women?  What if he had just kept blogging his opinion that women are “hoez” and “bitches”?  What if he had kept living his life assuming that he deserved sexual interaction with women – that it was the only way that men feel good about themselves?

Put another way – are the men who rate women’s physical appearance ill?  Are the men who expect sex from women after buying them something ill?  Are the men who call women who aren’t interested in them “bitches” ill?  What if they called other men pussies?  What if they stare at women’s bodies? What if they demand to see women’s breasts?  What if they hit a women when she “talks back”?  Is that ill… or is that “normal”?

So, if Sodini had lived his life out in these ways, would he still be ill? Would we condemn such thoughts as wrong?  Or would many slap him on the back and laugh about those “bitches”?

It can be difficult to look at his actions this way because we (the media/public) want to remove ourselves from such violence and convince ourselves that this was the actions of a mad man.  Because if his actions aren’t ill but follow with the social script… then what does that mean for the rest of us?

Because the way I see it, his murderous actions and the way he thought/felt/lived his life are not mutually exclusive.  The way Sodini felt about women is not a one-off.  He was not alone in his feelings.  This is a culture that breeds misogyny and sexism.  This is a culture that allows men like Sodini to blog the things he did, feel the way he did, act the way he did and then turns it’s back and dismisses him as an anomaly when women are being shot, stabbed, beaten, raped, assaulted, verbally abused, publicly humiliated and shamed every dayevery where.

By dismissing this man as ill, the media is normalizing the way  he felt and his violent actions.  It is like saying, “this is a sad event… but what are you gunna do?  It’s just one of those things”.

I can’t understand why violence like this and the violence that is happening every day in every part of the world is not making people take to the streets demanding an end to it.  I don’t understand why men are not demanding an end to the violence that other men inflict on women, children, and each other.

This is not a story that should be dismissed.  We need to be making the connections of how women are viewed and treated on a daily basis, to such large violent acts such as this one or the Amish girls who were shot down in their school, or the women raped and murdered in the Congo, or the women shot and killed in Montreal the École Polytechnique Massacre in 1989.

Perhaps it is that the

disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous treatment of women is so pervasive and so mainstream that it has just about lost its ability to shock.

But I urge everyone to be shocked by all degrading treatment of women.  I also urge everyone to start questioning why some men are brought to lengths of violence.  If we don’t start asking these questions and having this dialogue, how is this violence and hatred ever going to end?

I am outraged and I encourage everyone else to be as well.

A very interesting, important, and well written post from Feministing.com about the issues surrounding the up coming revision of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-R).

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Raymond Blanchard has some proposals for expanding the “paraphilia” section including naming anything outside of “genital stimulation or preparatory fondling” as a disorder.  Also included is changing “Transvestic Fetishism” to “Transvestic Disorder” – specifically if you are a heterosexual, cisgender male.

Another frightening aspect of Blanchard’s proposal is that any sexual interest other than “genital stimulation or preparatory fondling” is now, by definition, a paraphilia. In his presentation, he claimed that paraphilias should include all “erotic interests that are not focused on copulatory or precopulatory behaviors, or the equivalent behaviors in same-sex adult partners.” Copulatory is defined as related to coitus or sexual intercourse (i.e., penetration sex). So, essentially, all forms of sexual arousal and expression that are not centered around penetration sex may now be considered paraphilias.

These suggetions only further gender and sexual stereotypes that hinder and shame the sexual experiences and gender identities of everyone.   Please read the post linked to above and become aware of this important current issue.

Since classes let out, I have been spending some much needed quality time sleeping, getting back in touch with loved ones, and catching up on my television consumption.  In my moments of T.V. zoning out I have been running across my nemesis, commercials.  Over the years my partner and I have got into the habit of muting commercials so as to avoid the inane chatter, however, the imagery still sneaks through and gets me angry.

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The most recent inanity is a product line called “The Skinny Cow“.   This is a line of ice cream diet products that boast low calories and high flavor all part of a diet product crazed media that makes (mainly) women recall that they should always be on a diet because they are never good enough.

When I saw the mascot for these products, I just about fell over.  It isn’t good enough that the product is called “Skinny Cow” – I’m sure meant to link images of dairy products (that we all know are full of Evil Fat) to weight loss – but their mascot is, in fact, a skinny cow!  Now, to me this seems to epitomize what weight loss culture is all about – skinny, under-weight, unhealthy, emaciated bodies.

“The Skinny Cow” is meant to remind the consumer that skinny is sexy, healthy, acceptable and to not think about what a real skinny cow would look like:

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I am just so sick of the message upon message that tells women they are not good enough until they are a certain clothing size or body image.

As has been mentioned in a previous post, women are the ones who spend much of their time thinking about food for themselves and their families and so commercials are directed at them.  These media representations and messages remind women over and over again that food is some kind of enemy.  These “Skinny Cow” products are framed as if they are a help to women, but what they are really telling people is that regular ice cream is not good for you, but their product is and that is because this product won’t Turn Against You and your forever diet.

Why are women regulated to eating “fake” food, or less food?  I am currently reading Carol Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat where she discusses how in times of scarcity, women (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) are the ones who give up meat and larger food portions to men with whatever is left over going to children.  It seems that women are the ones who sacrifice themselves for any number of dietary causes including the Western Social ideal of “skinniness”.

So I ask you, when are we going to get images of “Healthy Cows”?  And when are we going to be happy with those images?  Is it possible in a media driven society that values zero fat and how might we envision that possibility?

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For now, I ask everyone to rethink that guilt reflex that comes from eating the “wrong” food and to feel proud in eating.  Food fuels us, brings us together, celebrates with us, and we experience food.

Now I’m hungry, I’m going to go and experience a sandwich.