Fighting with the Sky

Posts Tagged ‘sexism

Ok, well, I think everyone should be feminists.  But this is more to comment on my surprise at the use of sexist language and practices within the social work school that I attend.

Most of my interactions occur with other students and I am often surprised at how often I hear sexist, victim-blaming, slut shaming, etc. language.  I thought going into social work I would encounter people who were social justice minded and working to fight oppression.  For the most part, that is what I have encountered.  But there are the occasional times when I hear homophobic language (usually “that’s gay”) or rape jokes.

It just amazes me that people who are social justice minded when it comes to race or class or other social identities cannot recognize sexism and homophobia.

We do talk a lot about LGBT issues in my classes because they present as a “vulnerable population.”  Gender is talked about occasionally by some professors, but not all.  A lot of people recognize that LGBT people are still discriminated against, but don’t recognize that there is still discrimination against women.

So what can we do?  What can I do as a social work student?  We can speak up when we hear oppressive language and sexist comments.  We can bring up the social justice issues surrounding women in classes.  We can fight to end sexism in the greater community.


A couple weeks ago I received a great email from a reader that posed many thoughtful questions.  I want to start by addressing one of them here.

This reader brought up the fact that in one of my posts about Glee I stated tht I wasn’t sure if I would continue to watch the show if it weren’t for the musical numbers because of the amount of sexism, ableism, racism, etc. apparent in the show.  So, when does the sexism of the show outweigh the positive or entertaining aspects of the show?  How much sexism is too much?

Because of the society that we live in, there is at least some sexism (and other -isms) in all tv shows.  And I watch a lot of television, so I “put up with” a lot of sexism.  So why do I continue to watch all these shows even though there is apparent sexism in them?

First of all, I am interested in how pop culture reflects the values of society.  So even though I enjoy these shows, I am always critiquing them — analyzing what they are saying about society.

But we still have to come to terms with the fact that I enjoy these shows — they are entertaining to me — despite the fact that they promote values that I disagree with.  Of course there are some aspects of certain shows that promote feminism, but they are certainly in the minority and still have sexist aspects to them as well.

For example, Secret Life of the American Teenager goes back and forth between healthy and unhealthy attitudes towards teen (and adult, sometimes) sexuality.  There is the teen who in one episode thinks that the fact that she had sex with her boyfriend whom she loves killed her father, then has a conversation about masterbation with her mother in another episode.  And Bones can have a great portrayal of bisexuality in Angela and then can portray stereotypes in heterosexual male-female reationships (Bones and Booth).  And there are some many other examples that I could go into.

But there are still many shows that I enjoy that have very few positive feminist aspects (How I Met Your Mother, Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy, etc.).  When does the sexist factor outweigh the entertainment factor?

Honestly, I’m not quite sure.  I think it depends on each person and each show.  There are certainly a lot of shows that I don’t watch.  And that might be becuase their sexism and oppressive norms outweight the entertainment…or that the premise of the show just doesn’t interest me.  But I don’t really think there is a set line that can be used as a template for all shows.

I know this isn’t really an answer to the question.  But I can speak to my personal preference in continuing ot watch shows.

First of all, I have a tendancy to get invested in characters and storylines.  Shows that are good at storytelling tend to keep my interest.  Also, characters that I can either identify with in some way or see as an escape from my life can keep me interested in the show.  For example, I use Gossip Girl as an escape from my life because the lives of the characters are so different from mine…but I can still see some of my personality traits in some of the characters.  If the show can’t keep me interested in the storyline and invested in the characters, then the sexism will start to outweigh the entertainment factor for me.

So…how much sexism is too much in television?  I don’t know.  It has to be considered with the storyline and characters of the show…at least for me.  I might have a higher tolerance for shows that have apparent sexism than other people.  But, like I said, even if the storyline and characters are enough to keep me interested in the show, I am still always critiquing and analyzing what the show is saying about society and the sexism, racism, ableism, etc. that is in the show.

Again, I am a day late with the link love this week.  But it’s all good.  And it snowed so much last night it finally feels like December!  But it makes me weary of venturing out today because it is still snowing.

The Sexist: Patience is a (Feminist) Virtue

Why are women encouraged to wait around for major life events to just happen to us? Patience, my dear. These relationship milestones have been engineered and reinforced along traditional gender lines in order to test a woman’s ability to shut up and sit pretty, while encouraging men of action to make all the decisions around here. But unfortunately for the patience lobby, us women have figured a few things out over the history of time. One: Our vaginas won’t implode upon completion of premarital sex. Two: Our significant others can still love us without investing two paychecks worth of bling into one of our virtuous little fingers. And three: Waiting does not work. Ever.

Bitch Blogs: Douchebag Decree: Spencer Morgan and the invention of “the Cheetah”

We all know that it’s hilarious to compare women with any trace amount of sexual appetite to cats, right? And we know that a cougar is an older woman who has sex with younger men, and that apparently a puma is a woman in her late twenties who has sex with younger men. Well, apparently there is a new feline/woman hybrid, and she is on “the prowl” to trick drunk men into having sex with her and then entering into a serious relationship. This hybrid is called a cheetah, and apparently she feeds on gross clichés and a poorly-concealed hatred of women.

Broadsheet: Taylor Swift: Pop princess, feminist villan?

I haven’t thought much about Swift, but I’m generally inclined to agree with ladybloggers like Amanda Hess and Sady Doyle, two smart writers in their 20s who have concluded that the 19-year-old’s songs reinforce some not-so-woman-friendly stereotypes in extremely annoying ways. But today, with a typically excellent post about pop culture’s promotion of patience as a girl-powerful virtue, Hess got me wondering — not that she meant to — about whether there might be a legitimate feminist argument in favor of Taylor Swift.

The Undomestic Goddess: Thoughts on Feminist Theory from Margin to Center

I read this book as part of my online book group, Radical Readers and Feminisms for Dummies. While this book, written by bell hooks, was published in 1984, there are still many points that are relevant to what’s happening today.

I didn’t write a review for this month’s book for our book club, so make sure you read this one!

Happy Sunday everyone!  Don’t forget to leave links to what you have been writing and reading in the comments!

this ain’t livin’: How We Watch

Yet, I often hear people say “if you have such a problem with it, don’t watch it,” or “why do you keep watching it if you hate it so much”? Since when did criticism and discussion turn into “hate”? Criticism of creative work, creators, and the motivations of people who engage in such work is actually a rather ancient practice. I think it’s human nature; when we encounter something we like, we want to explore it more. We want to engage with it. We want to get inside it and wriggle around. Because it’s so good. Because the work itself is finite, but the potential readings and explorations are infinite.

The Undomestic Goddess: Hey PW, Suck on This!

Publisher’s Weekly recently came out with a list of the Best Books of 2009 and not a single woman author is on it. It’s not that women aren’t writing. It’s not that women aren’t writing anything of merit. It’s that women’s voices are continuing to be silenced; that our experience continues to go unrecognized.

The Sexist: Sexist Beatdown: Megan Fox’s Fake Bodies Find Their Voice

Megan Fox, everyone’s least-favorite super-hot chick, gets the New York Times Magazine treatment this week. We all know Megan Fox as that hot sassy vixen who claims to be female-empowered (“I would eat Robert Pattinson”) as she poses in wet bikinis for men’s magazines. And we know that that combination, uh, usually doesn’t go over so well among feminists. But here’s where things get trippy, you guys: Like, is it all an act? And what does it all mean?

As usual, here are some of my favorite posts from the past couple days.  Don’t forget to leave links to what you have been writing/reading in the comments!

Feminism that doesn’t advance women is no feminism at all. [Zero at the Bone] – Chally’s response to Feministing’s ableist language.

What if my gaze mattered? On the continuing dominance of the white-male-hetero-gaze and how it’s infiltrating the “feminine” world of Twilight [Professor What If…?] – “All the discussion of making the New Moon film friendlier to male audiences has my feminist panties in a bunch. Why must the Twilight films court the male demographic?”

Sexism Watch: The Jay Leno Show- Where are the Women Writers? [Women & Hollywood] – I was kind of surprised (but kind of not) to find out that the Jay Leno Show and Conan O’Brien don’t have any women writers.

New “Old Navy” Commercials Offend…Just About Everyone [Womanist Musings] – they’re not only creepy, but offensive.

Feminist science fiction books and entertainment are definitely still around, but did you know that feminist science fiction got its start at the beginning of the 20th century?

This sub-genre of writing uses science fiction to explore the meaning of gender norms and sexism in society.  It often deals with how society constructs gender norms, the role reproduction plays in defining gender norms and power differences between men and women, and how and why sexism is prevalent in society.  Most often, feminist science fiction portrays these issues through utopias or dystopias.  In a utopia, the writer shows a world without gender differences or gender power imbalances.  Whereas in a dystopia, the write exaggerates gender and power differences to show the need to fight against sexism.

As far back as 1818, Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein tackled issues of asexual creation of new life in a re-telling of the Adam and Eve Story.  Some examples of utopian feminist science fiction that tackled sexism around the time of first wave feminism are: Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and The Sultana’s Dream byRoquia Sakhawat Hussain.  Writers such as Clare Winger Harris and Gertrude Barrows Bennett wrote science fiction stories from female perspectives and often dealt with issues of sexuality.

It’s a shame that this outbreak of feminist science fiction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is not as well-known in the mainstream.  The stereotype of women during this time (and later, even today sometimes) was that they were silent.  Women didn’t really know much about what was going on and what was being done to them by society.  But these feminist science fiction texts are proof that women were fighting back against sexism and gender norms.  Most feminists know this, but the mainstream is still largely unaware.  Even today, science fiction is understood to be the male writers (and consumers) realm.  Men write science fiction, not women.

Disclaimer: most of my information for this post I found on Wikipedia.

PeTa never seems to learn. After the backlash from their “Save the Whales” billboard, you would think that they would catch on to their fat-phobic and sexist ways.  But they wouldn’t be PeTa if they did that.Moobs-poster-001

This billboard is outside a hospital in Glasgow.  There are so many things wrong with it, I don’t even know where to begin.

Let’s start again with PeTa’s fat-phobic tendancies, since this billboard closely resembles the “Save the Whales” one.  A vegetarian does not necessarily correlate to weight loss.  And what business is it of PeTA’s if someone a) either chooses to be fat or b) does not lost weight despite their efforts?  Using fat-phobic propaganda to promote something like vegetarianism, which is a personal, moral, and political decision, is just wrong.

But even if PeTA did learn their lesson from the Jacksonville “Save the Whales” billboard, this one is different because it features a man, right?  Men’s bodies cannot be objectified, right?  No man would want to have breasts, so it’s ok to tell them that being a vegetarian will get rid of those breasts.  Wow, I hope everyone realized the sarcasm in those sentences.

And “Dude Looks Like a Lady.”  Adding to transphobic culture much?  No man would ever want to look like a lady.  Breasts are only for women, therefore men cannot have them and should not want them.

I could go into so much more analysis here, but I’m pretty sure that the billboard speaks for itself.