When I was discharged from the army, one of the many things I was relieved about was that I would never again, as the lone female in my unit, have to share transportation with the rest of the guys when we were on travel. I would never again have to listen to Howard Stern on the way to work. I wouldn’t have to sit, leaning against the back window staring into space, while the men bonded over classic commentary like this:
I just wanna take that piece of ass body, put tape over her mouth, and do things to her. . And then like, I reach in, I yank out her vocal cords and then she just orally satisfies me by the pool. Oh, she’s totally a mute Kim. And she’s totally nude. . And then I break her legs and position them in the back of her head so that she’s sitting, and they’re permanently fixed like that.
I would never again end up standing in a crowd, waiting for them to give me a ride home, while women line up to have cold water dumped on their tee-shirts, and my co-workers line up to help rate them.
As a woman in the army, I learned not to complain about those things. I watched as a civilian woman was denied a job interview in our office, because the LTC in charge checked her personnel files and found out she’d filed an EEO complaint once. He wanted people that could work as part of a team, not trouble-makers. I nodded in sympathy when he explained this. I could have spoken up; I could have made a stand and any of those particular things would have been dealt with. But I also knew if I did that, the attention would be directed at me instead of those other women. Men have a way of knowing how to yank out a woman’s vocal cords without ever having to touch her.
Interaction and Inaction
Not so long ago, there was a blog post circulating around the internet, which began:
Memorandum for Record: Military Spending Concerns
FROM: SPC Freeman, Milo; US Army, Iraq
TO: Senate Democrats, Republicans, and “American Idol” viewers
across the nation.
1. You. Punk. Ass. Pantywaisted. Bitches.
It continued on with a fine anti-war rant intermingled with a bunch of stupidity about congress finding their testicles. It traveled around various lefty sites, and landed in an anti-war forum that I visit.
An equally irate rant appeared from my keyboard echoing the language in the original essay, beginning with:
At the risk of pissing off every member of the peace movement, who apparently are all unanimously embracing this post at the moment, let me just say that as a “pantywaisted bitch” who has been searching for my testicles for decades now without any luck, I am not going to be following suit here …
One of the responses, from an anti-war activist whom I personally know:
Audrey, and all feminists who would wish to have everyone be politically correct when voicing their opinions on (this) group. Get a fucking grip! This isn’t about you! or your pantywaistes. Your acting like little bitches! . In fact to see (it) on this group makes me want to puke. .So stop being a pantywaiste bitch and get over it.
There is another forum I wander around in from time to time, a forum of designers. A few months ago, I started putting members there on ignore if they posted racist, sexist, or homophobic content. I didn’t announce when I did it, or make a public show of stating whose posts I was no longer reading; I just quietly clicked the ignore button.
Responses from people who realized I was ignoring their posts:
“Well, Aud, fuck you. Why do you bother coming here.”
“… why don’t you care about posts that create a hostile environment for men?”
“… the last seven or so years you’ve just been a stupid cunt in disguise.”
“… all this time you’re pissing away ignoring people and highlighting supposed gender inequality as part of a worthless social experiment should be spent getting gangbanged on film for (our) enjoyment.”
I anticipated some backlash from the first incident; I was confrontational. I didn’t expect the intensity of the response I received, or that a man there would ask, repeatedly, for copies of private correspondence I’d sent to a third party. That’s something I’d expect from a supervisor, not a peer. And I didn’t expect that another woman who defended my stance would be personally attacked and subtly threatened, while the men who spoke in my defense were ignored.
In the other forum, the graphics one, I was taken aback by how angry people were at the thought of me not reading their posts. It’s a personal affront to them, I suppose, that somewhere in the Midwest, there is one middle-aged woman who isn’t looking at the slurs and porn they present, or reading further posts from them once they present it.
That last comment about my need to get gangbanged was from a left-leaning man I’d been friends with for years, and with whom I collaborated on for a small art project once. He advises me to read a book written by a “sex-positive” woman. I wonder why such a “sex-positive” man is so quick to equate sex with anger and retaliation. I view him as being “violent-porn-positive.” Perhaps it’s the same thing.
What I discovered in my “social experiment” was that men are oppressed when women don’t embrace slurs against themselves or the men who slur them, and that oppression of men happens whether the women speak out or silently refuse to read further.
Why the Left’s Behind
It doesn’t surprise me that people use gender slurs, or equate women and their bodies with all that is bad, and men and their testicles with strength of character and all that is good. Our culture pours these thoughts into our heads. When we try to walk, it’s like we’re carrying all these buckets around that are slightly too full; they slosh and leak over the top, and run down our legs.
They’re filled with derogatory words for women who are sexually active, and for women who aren’t, and for women we wish would be more sexually active, and for women who walk around in public without looking sexually attractive enough, for women who speak when they should be making themselves more sexually attractive, and for women who haven’t learned yet that speaking makes them less sexually attractive.
These words don’t have male counterparts, because we don’t have a need, in our culture, to keep men in their place. And the buckets are filled with the notion that we on the left are noble because we’re progressive enough to say that women should have equal rights, but it’s a sort of equality that comes as a footnote to what we all know – that women’s value is, at the end of the day, based on their potential as objects for men’s sexual gratification. That also leaks down our legs when we have a discussion with or about women.
I see this sloshing around when the left talks about conservative women in the news. They tell me their comments aren’t homophobic or misogynistic; they are just serving the right’s hypocrisy back to them on a platter. But that platter’s always filled with words from those same buckets, the same ones they’re using to fill the platters they deliver to women in the news who aren’t involved in politics, and it doesn’t matter whether these women are excessively rich and privileged and white, or underprivileged women of color. I see the same dishes being served to the women on the left, when they step out of line in some way. That happens whether the women on the left are in the public eye or not. The left spends a lot of time drenching all women with what’s in those buckets.
The buckets splash no matter who’s carrying them, the left or the right. What interests me is what happens when they spill. When the right spills, they don’t particularly care. They just keep on walking. When the left gets caught doing the same, they have to slow down and make a show of denying there’s a wet spot on the floor. To do otherwise might jeopardize their status as champions of women’s rights.
And so, when we object to being drenched in sexist slurs, the left characterizes that objection as an isolated personal issue that “hurt our feelings.” As women, we are known for being overly sensitive and emotional, and incapable of analytical thought, so our objections are reduced to an emotional and personal response. When the term Macaca was used by the right, nobody dismissed it as being about one person’s bruised feelings. There was an outcry against that incident, because the left understands (when it’s not about women) that a slur against one person is hate speech against an entire group.
If the woman getting drenched is conservative and we voice a complaint, we are accused of sympathizing with the enemy. We are not allowed to simultaneously have contempt for a woman’s political positions or actions, while also believing that sexually degrading her as a woman is offensive.
The left shores up the sensitive feelings defense by hauling out “political correctness” to shame subordinate groups into silence. That phrase is a tool used to avoid the real terms that apply – racism or misogyny or homophobia. Those words assign blame to the speaker. “Political correctness” conveniently places the blame entirely on the person who is the target of such speech. Once we invoke that term, the victim becomes the oppressor.
The argument goes something like this: “I’m not offended when someone uses a slur against me based on my identity as a male. So you shouldn’t be offended when I use derogatory language against you as a woman.” In other words, “I’m not offended when you dump water on me; why are you offended when I dump a bucket of water on you, and then deny equal opportunities to you because instead of doing serious work, you’ve been parading about in a wet t-shirt?”
The objectification and degradation of women isn’t just a matter of “hurt feelings.” It plunges us into poverty, and validates violence against us. It fuels the discrimination against women in hiring, in promotions, in the way the media represents us – or doesn’t, and in the way we’re treated when we walk down a public street. The left responds by telling us they’ve been on the front lines fighting for women’s rights for decades, don’t blame them, and they say this as they’re staring at our chest and holding the dripping bucket in their hands.
If the PC argument doesn’t shut us up, we’re told we’re distracting people from the larger more important mission ahead. They can’t stop being sexist now – there’s a war to be stopped! Treating women as equals rather than as sexualized objects for male gratification, or as metaphors for all that is weak and ineffectual, would divert valuable resources from the anti-war effort. After all war has ended, then the left will address discrimination against women – which they care about, deeply.
If we can’t smile while quietly standing in the puddles they make, if we rebel against our designation as enemy targets, they escalate the hate speech and make it more personal and sexualized until we retreat.
This doesn’t mean they’re misogynistic. They believe in equal rights, and they assure us they don’t need a lecture in how language affects perceptions, or how perceptions affect reality. The left allows us to be equal because they are progressive and open-minded about such things, and they’re even willing to keep treating us as equals, so long as we can show we deserve it – and so long as we don’t ask them to mop up the floor.
[Editor's note: we intend this to be Part 1 of a long-overdue series on misogyny as a political weapon/practise/strategy -- whether it be the abuse of "the enemy's women" in war, or the use of misogynist hate speech to assail "the enemy's women" in politics, or the misogynist tropes that define all Enemies as Women, or the plain ol' everyday misogyny intended to silence or intimidate any woman defined as Uppity and hence Enemy...]