3.08.2006

Blog Against Sexism: words, words, words

So today is blog against sexism day. It's also International Women's Day. Miz Bohemia has posted to that particular effect better than is whithin my prowess.

This post, to be clear, is hardly exhaustive. I've picked a theme and run with it, though I can't claim to have exhausted the theme either as I'm sure that there is a book in it. For more on the subject... well, Alice has posted a noble offering

I think that a lot in regards to sexism when it comes to its underlying prevalence can be discovered through examination of words. And I don't mean words like "woman" and "history," both of which have at times been modified to "womyn" and "herstory" by a wing of the feminist movement that never bothered to look up the etymologies of said words. And the words that have to do with professions are more or less innocuous, innacurate as they are now. As is often, the real deal is a lot more unsavory. Take, for example, the word hysteria is derived from the root word hyster, which means womb. It was so named because it was originally believed to be caused by the uterus. No lie. (note: thanks to Vesper for setting me straight on this one)

Speaking of medical terms. Very recently, the term hypersexuality came into prevalence in the field of medicine, to replace two other terms. The terms were nymphomainia (in the case of its existance in women) and satyriasis (in men). Nothing inherently sexist in the words themselves.

However.

How often do you hear the word satyriasis uttered? Generally, you don't. Personally, I didn't know the word existed since I saw the Big Lebowski, and I've yet to hear it said anywhere else. There's a clear message there, not that it should come as much of a shock to anyone. As far as the public consciousness goes, hypersexuality is only a disorder when it's present in women.

Not cool.

There is, as is well known, another word pertinent when it comes to that particular double-standard, and the word is slut. I don't need to rehash the particular issue with that word save to say that there really isn't a male counterpart to it. Personally I apply it regardless of gender (mostly in reference to men actually but that's more because I personally know more male sluts than female ones), and hardly ever in the pejoritave. Of course, that raises certain communication issues at times, but I digress.

Two more words: misogyny and misandrony. They refer, respectively, to contempt for (or indeed hatred of) women and men. Both are alive and kicking in modern culture. And yet the first time I've ever heard of the word misandrony was when Alice made a note of Blog Against Sexism Day. And I tend to make a point of knowing words. I love words. My guess is? Misandrony is, quite simply, seen as more acceptable. And I'm not even talking about misandrony as a direct response to misogyny, which is totally understandable. Look at the modern sitcom. How many guys in them aren't total dumbasses? Of course, there is no question as to which force is more of a problem (hell, there are even two categories of it in pop music: the "bitch/'ho" form present in hip-hop, and the "all women ever do is cause me pain" version in emo) . But as a rule I try to make mention of the elephant in the room.

Ok, I lied. There's another word I'm going to analyze, though not in the same way. The word is Feminism. The rub here is in how people react to it. Let's start with Pat Robertson:

The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.

The scary thing is he said this speaking at the 1992 Republican National Convention. While Robertson's reaction is hardly typical, backlash against feminism is decidedly mainstream, and it exists in two forms: oppressive and ridicule, The former which Pat Robertson embraces I don't think requires any further explaination. It's rotten, pure and simple. The latter is typified by this joke:

How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb
Only one and there's nothing funny about it

The ridicule backlash is the perception of all feminists as being (among other things) humorless, anti-sex, and in the most extreme cases, sexist in their own right. To be fair? It's true of an entrenched minority within the feminist movement. But, sadly, it also in many circles exists as the very thing that the word "feminist" evokes. I can't pretend to have a solution here.

Incedently, here's another word I'm just now (like I literally just saw it) discovering. Masculism. Not an opposition to Feminism, as one might expect, but rather a parallel progressive movement aiming to redefine masculinity in an age of changing and blurring gender roles. I could read into its lack of coverage, but I believe I'll let it speak for itself. I encourage you to follow the link. Did I ever mention I love wikipedia?

So yeah. Sexim is everywhere. Many forms, many layers, many directions. Just say no.

To sexism that is.


20 comments:

  1. You mentioned how all men are bumbling idiots on sitcoms... it drives me crazy. I haven't seen an commercial where the man a)has a mind of his own b)is not a complete and utter retard. I am reminded of the commercial where the husband and wife go in to the antique store. The guy finds an old jukebox and the wife just shakes her head like she is saying "you dumb fucker were not putting that piece of shit in out house" and they leave with a HUGE cabinet of some kind. The first time I saw that I was watching TV with my mom and when it ended we looked at each other disgusted, I said "I would have let him have the jukebox." She looked really sad and said "me too". I don't know where I was going with that... other than I hate sexism!!! UGH!

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  2. I knew all the words mentioned because of three human sexuality classes I took back in my SFSU days. The interesting thing is how we all approached this, to a certain extent, through a mention of sexuality. I have a theory that by observing a society and its sexual freedoms can one truly see how advanced and open-minded said society is.

    Scandinavian societies being more permissive are also very advanced as far as women's rights, their role in society and the power and respect they yield as well as their legal rights. Look at the Middle East and well... and unfortunately the US seems to be following a backward trend...

    It's a very broad terms to post under. Even International Women's Day is broad and it is ridiculous to assume we could say all we want to say in one post, for one day... comes down to it being a human rights issue and being treated as such...

    Thanks for blogging on the subject and as always, loved your post dear Wombat!

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  3. One of my primary interests in university is gender and sexuality...so I adore your post! Insightful thoughts.

    A word about hysteria: I believe the word "hyster" means womb...correct me if you've heard something different. And they once believed in medieval times that hysteria was caused by some kind of disorder of the uterus, as you said, and some doctors thought the uterus would actually detach itself from its normal position and "wander" up to the neck area, where it would "poison" the brain...thus making the woman lose her head...so to speak.

    I've thought a lot about this. How they went about treating hysteria was often brutal towards the women who suffered from it...although they seemed to have gotten their symbols right in at least some ways. I'm not saying that hysteria is literally caused by the uterus, but that many hysterics are often victims of sexual abuse, and many psychosomatic pains will occur in the "sites of abuse" -- such as the genital area, and/or the neck, and/or the mouth, and/or the head....which may have been one reason for why they thought the uterus had travelled to the woman's upper body. In a figurative sense, it almost rings true...

    In no way am I endorsing the sexist actions against hysterics, that in some cases carry over into the present day.

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  4. Sammy: I know! I would not even drive the car back if I was shot down about the jukebox.

    Miz B: The US is moving backwards in many ways. I think we left the Cold War like it was a hot tub on a chilly night. The air was too shocking, so we eased back into the tub and all of the ignorances that were incorporated with it.

    Vesper: My bad. I got it the wrong way around. Hysteria is the sexist word. I'ma fix that.

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  5. Nice post Wombat.
    It may be worth noting that when my uterus is cramping I get rather hysterical but ah the miracle of modern pharmaceuticals alleviates most of that.

    Indeed just say no.

    Gender and sexuality class - never my favorite although I did the required; too many words like misogyny.

    Masculinism doesn’t make much sense as historically they have nothing to fight for what they want it to bring back what they thought they owned.


    Excuse me now I must not get back to practicing witchcraft, destroying capitalism, and becoming a lesbian. These things take time.

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  6. Alice: I was pretty careful about researching masculism before posting about it. I learned my lesson. Have you read the wikipedia article I linked to? There is only a comparatively small portion of masculists who seek to protect patriarchy. To quote wikipedia:

    Liberals tend to view masculism as a complementary movement to feminism, the so-called "New Masculinity." Both feminism and masculism are seen as attempts to correct disadvantages induced by gender roles. Whereas feminists addresses areas they believe women to be disadvantaged, such as equal pay and promotion, masculists address areas they believe men to be disadvantaged, such as criminal prosecution and sentencing. These masculists may object to specific aspects of feminism or to the expressed views of specific feminist groups, but do not reject feminism as a concept, or believe that the feminist movement as a whole is hostile to masculism.

    Have I missed something?

    Good luck with the socialism and the sapphism. Drop me a line if you run out of eye of newt, or finger of birth-strangled babe (you did remember kill your children, right?). I know people.

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  7. Ever ran into anything written by Martha Nussbaum? I don't always agree with her, but she is one of my favorite Feminism and Ethics reads.

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  8. Very great post EW... I'd write more but it's midnight and my eyes are about to close.

    Just let it be known I'm proud of you. Your writing... and your just say no to "sexism".

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  9. Cowgirl: Never heard of her. I'll be sure to be on the lookout.

    Shayna: Aw shucks... coming from you, that's a hell of a thing to hear.

    What else would I just say no to? ;)

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  10. Oh, boo with the sexism, men are bad, women are wicked.

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  11. de.vile: so does that make you bisexist?

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  12. Sexism against women and against men is very real and has always been in force. Like racism, it persists in both directions regardless of the relative power relationship between the parties.

    Unfortunately, even as women enjoy seven years more life on average than their western male counterparts, a number of men's issues are being ignored. We're the majority of homicide perps and victims. We constitute the vast majority of the prison population and the minority of college graduates. Funding for medical research for men's illnesses receives approximately 1/20th of that for women's illnesses, despite the fact that far fewer men make it to 80.

    Please visit my blog to contribute your thoughts, scream at me, agree with me or suggest related issues and items for discussion and research.

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