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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » So making absolute statements about women is wrong, but about men is okay?

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Author Topic: So making absolute statements about women is wrong, but about men is okay?
Member # 32224

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So, on a different site I use (under a different username), there have been a sequence of flamewars recently. The site in question is not a specifically feminism- or gender-issues-devoted site, just a discussion board for something else. I don't want to go into too much detail in case the place is identified (if anyone recognises it, please don't say so, okay?), but, roughly ...

Someone on the site made a statement about female biology, referring to "women" instead of "females", which only took ciswomen into account. Several people commented saying this was wrong. I have no argument with this because, well, it's true that not all women's biology fits that category, as people here know. Someone protested the protestors, saying that "most women" fall into the biological-female category so the statement was, for the purposes of the conversation, accurate, and understandably sparked an argument. I don't have a problem with this person being told they're out of line either.

A couple of days later, someone mentioned an anecdote about a woman who screamed at some shop assistants when a male employee screwed up her order and declared something along the lines of "What do you expect if you get a man to do the job, they're all useless". The person mentioning this thought the woman was wrong to do that. Several of the same people who had protested the absolute statements about women said that the woman was perfectly justified in saying it. Even though her statement was blatantly untrue - men are not, by definition, "useless" by virtue of being men. (Not even the specific man in question was being "useless", as the anecdote did mention that he was in the process of correcting his error when the woman came out with that statement.) When someone tried to argue that she wasn't justified, they were condemned as opposing feminism.

Am I the only one who thinks there's something wrong with this? I'm female, cisgendered as far as I know, and have nothing but support for women's rights, but this situation still struck me as hypocritical.

(Before you ask, I didn't get involved in the argument. I know I'm not good enough with words to get my point across, even if I thought they were likely to listen.)

[ 02-16-2011, 11:46 AM: Message edited by: mizchastain ]

Posts: 475 | From: UK | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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I completely agree with you that it is hypocritical to allow generalised statements about one sex and not the other. In the same way that forbidding racist statements about one race, but having it be totally fine for another, would also be hypocritical.

I also think it's completely counter productive to the feminist movement (or any other cause searching for equality for that matter).

There seems to be this unfortunate tendency among certain members of those fighting for the rights and recognition of one group to do so at the marginalisation of a another. To set up a dynamic of us and them which I think is ultimately problematic. If our goal is for equality and understanding, simply changing the double standards from one sex to the other, or reallocating the prejudice from one race to anther, does nothing to create a more sympathetic world but only changes the form of the misunderstanding.

[ 02-16-2011, 12:32 PM: Message edited by: skiesofgreen ]

Posts: 243 | From: British Columbia, Canada | Registered: Mar 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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On the same site, I've been ranted at for suggesting that it's unfair to automatically assume that writing a fictional story with a heterosexual male lead character and posting it on a site primarily used by but not aimed specifically at women is misogynist (keep in mind that the people saying this hadn't actually read the story, knew nothing about it other than that the lead character was male and straight, and I'm pretty sure the writer's gender or orientation was never mentioned at all), and I've seen people claim that men are not allowed to have an opinion on abortion. I agree that they shouldn't be allowed to ENFORCE their opinions, but this person claimed they shouldn't be allowed to HAVE opinions. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't the only way to make people not have opinions on an issue at all be to prevent them from knowing that said issue exists? I don't know, maybe I'm wrong here, but I don't think this kind of thing is helping the cause of feminism at all.

[ 02-17-2011, 12:25 PM: Message edited by: mizchastain ]

Posts: 475 | From: UK | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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Don't like to resurrect a thread, but I figured it was better than starting a new one; it happened again, though this time I didn't get involved much. Apparently this time I'm "f***ing stupid" (direct quote) for pointing out the irony in screaming at someone for being a misogynist for using the word "bitch" and, in the process, calling that person a "dick", particularly since we didn't know the gender of the person being called such. I'm not actually offended by either word in itself, I just enjoy poking holes in other people's logic. Because making feminists look like whiny children is REALLY going to help. Besides, am I the last person on the planet who was taught that swearing at one's opponent in a debate makes one look like one is incapable of making a useful point? Similar business in a different place; the moderator of all people was telling someone off for using ableist language, but leapt right in with curses and threats, which promptly made me lose all respect for the person even though I agreed with the argument.

Someone compared it to the recent business with the movie Thor, in which an African-American actor portrays a Viking god, saying that the double standard for turning non-white characters white in movies - citing Last Airbender and Dragonball among others - has been so prevalent it's okay to reverse it. I do in fact agree with that argument (unless they're touting the movie in question as "historically accurate" while putting people of various races in roles they would not in fact have been in in that time period, but in this particular case that doesn't apply - excuse me for getting off-topic). However, acknowledging that non-white people exist is hardly an active attempt to insult white people, so I don't think it's a suitable analogue to calling a stranger a dick.

[ 05-14-2011, 12:01 PM: Message edited by: mizchastain ]

Posts: 475 | From: UK | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Betty C.
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Wow, this is an interesting topic.
Unfortunately it is something I find difficult to talk about it day to day lives, due to the fact that I never seem to find women who are cool with talking about this. How many times have I heard my girlfriends bang on about how men 'are all pigs' and 'only have one thing on their mind'.
Personally I think it is utterly unacceptable for someone to say something like that, because it is a very dangerous assumption; it's exactly like when men go around saying all women are 'hormonal', thus putting us on a lower level (i.e not in control of our own emotions). There is no excuse either way: they are both sexist and damaging statements.
This is also why, although I agree with a lot of feminist ideology, I choose not to call myself a feminist because that unfortunately seems to imply that I just side with the feminine side of humanity.
So yeah, I do agree with you. It is wrong and hurtful, because it implies there are certain standards one has to meet in order to be considered a true man (i.e obsessed with sex, unclean, into sports) which is just as bad as expecting a woman should behave a certain way and be interested in certain things.

I have a question: I live in the UK, and I don't know if this is the same in other countries, and here in supermarkets we have sections with magazines and papers on sale. Gossip, gardening and cooking magazines are always classified under "Women's Interests". Personally I know a lot of men interested in all the above. I on the other hand, have not a care in the world about celebrity gossip or gardening. The fact that I enjoy cooking I feel is relative to my personal taste and not my gender.

Am I the only one who finds this really offensive though? I find that by classifying such magazines as strictly female does not only make it embarrassing for a man to step out and buy one but also damaging to the image of women, thus bunching us together as just being interested in domestic stuff. What do you think?

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Yeah, the "Women's Interests" thing is pretty darned annoying. I'm not sure that there's much to be done about that (unless it's in an independent store, in which case I would complain about it for sure).

People making these comments? Yeah, it's pretty counter-feminist. As far as I'm concerned feminism is about deconstructing patriarchy, and acknowledges that people of all genders are repressed by gender roles. I would say, if all of the feminists you know think men are inferior, make some who don't! Have those arguments, change people's minds. [Smile]

“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Indeed: feminism is not equal to misandry. Gender categories (all of them) are definitely too fluid to make universal statements about "all men" or "all women", though it is sometimes useful to generalize, as long as one does so consciously, while leaving space for persons who don't fit whatever mould is being discussed and not marginalizing them.

HOWEVER: because of the existence of institutionalized systems of oppression in all cultures, the same kinds of behaviors and statements made about different groups or to different people don't have the same impact. While I don't think it's a productive practice, denigrating "all men" doesn't tend to do nearly as much damage as denigrating "all women", as men are usually not subject to institutional systems of oppression that these kinds of statements help reinforce. Negative statements about "all men" (with exceptions for contexts where this isn't true) are likely to go no further than making someone look like a misandrist *******, while similar statements about women will resonate with and act as part of larger systemic structures of oppression.

I don't think this excuses statements like that no matter whom they're aimed at, but it does help explain why it's seen as more 'acceptable' to make negative generalizations about socially privileged groups than unprivileged groups.

As for "Women's Issues", I, too, find this insulting to both men and women. Normative gender binaries restrict men just as much as women (and sometimes more - consider, for example, the treatment of/reaction to "sissy" boys vs. tomboys/"butch" girls), but they also often do so in a way that is more likely to empower men and disempower women, which is why they tend to be viewed as more problematic for women than men. The recognition that this sort of restriction runs both ways is, I think, a major reason that men should be just as interested in feminism as women (and anyone who identifies as neither man/woman/male/female).

Robble Robble Robble!

Posts: 46 | From: Milwaukee, WI USA | Registered: Jul 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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Personally I think it's got to the point that insulting one side insults the other. If I really wanted to earn myself an infinite number of angry emails, I'd want to say something to some of these people along the lines of "if men are so inferior and incompetent, how did they manage to start oppressing women in the first place?" I realise that's a highly offensive thing to say, but it's sorely tempting sometimes. I know it's wishful thinking, but in my opinion we ideally shouldn't be on "sides" at all.

I've seen something more recently involving female users on a political board calling a male politician's thoughts on abortion "invalid" by virtue of his being male. I realise that a male cannot really have a first-person experience of what it's like to be in the position of someone who may need an abortion, but since the only way to stop someone having an opinion on an issue at all is to prevent them from knowing the issue exists, something about their phrasing kind of rubs me the wrong way. My cynical side also notices the commenters only express this view about politicians who disagree with them. I don't like the views of this specific man either because he's currently trying to ban abortion under any circumstances even though his wife had one a while back, which I don't think endears him to either side, but going by their logic, the opinions of male politicians who are trying to oppose him would be equally invalid.

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Also, I've been told, direct quote, "no1curr" about my opinion when I pointed out the contradictions, despite linking to relevant articles here. I dismissed that person out of hand, though, as I refuse to be drawn into arguments with people incapable of forming sentences.
Posts: 475 | From: UK | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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