Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Damned Misogynist Bastards!!!

Or not so much...

I think it's pretty obvious to anyone who reads my blog or catches my comments here and there, that I am a pretty big fan of Dr. Isis. I like her blog for a number of reasons, first and foremost being: I'm a dad. I like the cutesy stories about rocking smart kids being, well, cute. I also like stories about parents being, well, good parents who are proud of their children.

I also really like her blog, because she discusses the balance between being a mother and the domestic chores that entails, and her career - a career that is pretty demanding. I can relate to a lot of what she discusses because I'm a single dad who is balancing a demanding new schedule of studying, with the domestic demands of being a parent - the parent to my kids, when I have them.

And I really like her blog because it is often a forum for discussing social gender roles. A topic that is rather near to my heart.

When I wrote this post, little more than a month ago, I failed to really explain why this was such a big deal to me. I'm a born and raised midwestern boy. In the midwest, boys just don't step out of the archetypal male gender constructs. It's not as bad now, but when I first put on a skirt in the mid-nineties, it was pretty radical. Especially given that I'm not into playing with other boys. So when this happened to me and I liked it so much, it was really kind of confusing - especially given that I had met my first transgendered person not all that long before it happened. As stupid as this might sound, it just hadn't occurred to me that a guy could wear "women's" clothing and still be a guy.

I have some very strong opinions about gender and gender constructs. I use the same language to discuss these issues as a lot of feminists use. In part because I am a feminist and in part, because this language (in modern usage) has largely developed in women's and subsequently gender studies programs. I pretty firmly believe that a lot of these last vestiges of actual misogyny in our society are a result of the lack of focus on men's studies. I really want to see that change, so I spend a lot of my time talking about it. And this is not just online, I talk about it here in the outside world too. I wear skirts on occasion, because of the conversation doing so fosters (and because I love skirts and look pretty hot in them).

But often times, when I start using the language appropriate to gender discussions, I turn a fair number of people off. And not because they're misogynists or even disagree with anything I have to say. They are turned off because they have had shitty experiences with people who use that same sort of language, who also seem to believe that any and every criticism of them is misogyny.

I am all for calling misogyny when I see it. I am even for calling people on making unintended misogynistic statements. Such as:

"Damn, women are just stupid." or "Here, let me change that tire for you - I'm sure you'd rather not get dirty."

The first is pretty blatant misogyny. The second is misogyny by implication, the intention is not inherently misogynistic, but the effect and implication most certainly is. And for the former, I am all about letting loose my inner asshole. For the latter, I would be inclined to politely take them to the side and have a little talk. But this:

I don't know. There seems to be a limited overlap between what she writes about and my interests and her general tone rubs me the wrong way (reminds me of too many people I've known), but I'm willing to give it another shot. A few suggested starter posts?

or this:
I've had a similar response to it. I found it grating, even though I wanted to like it.

or even this:
Nice to know I'm not completely alone here.
her blog came across to me as:
"I was washing [the shit off my baby's] beautiful little bottom and he got a little erection, then he did a wee all down my front, and I thought to myself 'This is it, this is what life is all about'."
Some of us have other priorities.

Are not misogyny at all. They are legitimate criticisms that explain why those individuals didn't care for Isis' blog. Accusing the people who have those opinions of misogyny, is not any different than religionists who refuse to discuss any criticism of their faith, because that's their faith and off limits. The fact that there are people out there who criticize me and the things that I happen to talk about, does not make them man hating misandrists. It just means they don't like what I have to say about something. OTOH, if the criticism of me was basically, "DuWayne's friggin stoopid because he has a penis instead of a uterus!" that would qualify as misandry.

The problem that I have with this off the cuff, bullshit use of the word misogynist is twofold. Most importantly, it makes the word entirely meaningless. When anything and everything that criticizes any feminist is magically considered misogyny, effectively calling out actual misogyny becomes pretty much impossible. The other problem I have with it, is that it associates me to that kind of bullshit, when I am using the language of gender issues. I have shit to do, trying to make my community a better place, an easier place for people to live and be, regardless of gender or where they fit in gender constructs. Assholes who cry misogyny at the drop of the mildest critique, make that much harder for me to do.


GARY said...

Thanks for the post. Whenever I've said similar things, it's led to a pile on. I imagine you'll get some of the same.
Gary aka KittysBitch

Betül said...

Thanks for the post. People like you "should" be out there, not under the pile. I surely know how it feels to be different and feel that you do not belong anywhere. Later I realized, it actually feels great to be this way :)

DuWayne Brayton said...

Thanks for stopping Gary and Betül.

I am not particularly concerned about being piled on and if anyone wants to accuse me if misogyny, let them have at it.

I totally get the wonderful feeling of living outside or on the fringes. I've been there most of my life, if not all of it. I suspect that when I was small, I just never noticed - like I failed to notice a lot of things.

leigh said...

oh, the tire changing (and other car related stuff) stories i have from the female end! i don't take it as direct misogyny, just the universal assumption that women aren't technically inclined. which in itself is maybe a cultural bias, the social/gender construct you mention. i guess i don't think too deeply into the psychology of it, but i do expect to hear that kind of thing.

i find it mildly insulting if an inevitably well-meaning guy won't move on when i tell him that i've got it covered. (yes, dude, i'm sure i can replace the bulb i just pulled out of my headlight housing, thanks.) but if i catch crap or get lied to at a shop, i will smack them down in front of their customers. because nobody expects a girl who looks like me to know that stuff.

i also fail to see how criticism of an individual makes for misogyny. that's a contradiction in terms...

DuWayne Brayton said...

Don't get me wrong Leigh, I'm one of those people who stops to see if folks need help. But I ask if someone needs help, I don't just assume it.

And I am just as inclined to ask a guy if he needs help, especially if he looks like he doesn't know what he's doing. I even offered to change the tire of a guy who appeared fairly competent, but also happened to be wearing a very nice suit. He gave me forty bucks for my trouble, as well as his gratitude...

DaisyDeadhead said...

The point is that certain subjects are considered more important because they are about men, rather than women. Misogyny permeates the culture... the reason I can say something in a meeting and be ignored, but if a man says it, he's suddenly a genius.

If a man writes about child care, he's a fucking saint. Women? Well, that is what women are SUPPOSED to do, so no big deal.

For instance, didn't some asshole recently trash Dr Isis for admitting that she likes SHOES? (Now, if it was a man talking about CARS or FOOTBALL TEAMS, that would be different, and no defenses would be necessary at all.)

THAT is the sexism of the culture, and much harder to nail, categorize, define, and comment upon.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Daisy, you mean this asshole? Yep, he'd never get involved in deconstructing cultural gender expectations. He'd certainly never mock sports as unimportant. [Warning: sarcasm alert, both here and on the other end of the link.]

Epinephrine said...

Thanks DuWayne -

I actually like Isis' blogging mostly, and enjoy her stories about her children (my 4th's on the way, so I like kid stories), but I have been accused of misogyny, of "not getting it", and various other similar statements virtually every time I open my mouth there.

It's unfortunate, but the rabid fans that attack anyone who disagrees very nearly drove me away. I think Dr. Isis is a good role model; a woman who is a successful scientist, and is confident in her multiple roles (and we all have multiple roles). I hope my daughters all have a similar level of confidence in themselves when they grow up.

I don't care much for some of her commenters, however. They are prone to lashing out and condemning people, and can quickly make it an unpleasant place to attempt any discussion.



GARY said...


"For instance, didn't some asshole recently trash Dr Isis for admitting that she likes SHOES?"

If Stephanie and I are right in our assumption of who you're talking about...NO.

Is that what you chose to read into his comment?

DaisyDeadhead said...

Gary, the info regarding Dr Isis is like 3rd hand... this blogwar has already spread way beyond the neighborhood, dude!

Everybody is amazed that so-called "science-minded" fellas are falling back on "women talk too much" as a genuine argument.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Daisy, if it's all third-hand and you don't know what was said, why are you repeating the accusations? And do you have any actual examples of the science-minded guys saying women talk too much?

(And may I just say how amused I am that my word verification is "unctules"? It wasn't a word before, but it might have to become one now.)

Samia said...

This post made my heart glad.

Anonymous said...

"Damn, women are just stupid." or "Here, let me change that tire for you - I'm sure you'd rather not get dirty."

The above is not a misogynistic statement it's a sexist statement. Either gender can be a sexist only a male can be a misogynist. A hatred for women collectively is something that happens during the sexual developmental stages of a male child. Sexism is not a rarity, but an abject hatred for women is.

The second statement made in that paragraph: "Here, let me change that tire for you - I'm sure you'd rather not get dirty" that is considered benevolent sexism, no connection whatsoever with misogyny.