February 2010


Misogyny Gone Wild, Part Three of ???

Since it appears that my efforts to engage somebody in an educational debate over misogyny have fallen flat, probably due to my aggressiveness in wanting to understand what was going on, I want to close out the current debate by making several points that I think are important.

I’ll put them below the fold because I suspect most people are (quite rightly) more than a bit tired of this debate. However I want to put them up on the web so that some of the more bizarre accusations made against me are at least addressed in some fashion and not left unanswered.

For those of you who do not click through, I wish you a happy Friday night, Saturday, or whatever day of the week it happens to be when you read this.

For everybody else, here are my thoughts:

First, it is difficult to engage in a debate, full bodied or otherwise, with somebody who screams misogyny at the drop of a hat. The second you try to engage in debate, the label, or something similar, is tossed at you. This is much like individuals who went after Senator Joe McCarthy in the States back in the 1950s: if you went after him, he accused you of being a communist. Attempting to answer these charges is like trying to answer the question “Have you stopped beating your wife yet” or “Have you admitted to your alcohol problem?” – answering yes suggests you’re a wife beater or a drunk; answering no suggests you are wife beater or a drunk. You just cannot win.

And I lost because I am now branded “non-reflective, sexist and patriarchal” – which is pretty bad.

Honestly I doubt that I’m any of these things. It’s easy to deny the non-reflective charge: The fact that I’m asking questions, curious and trying to understand why a cartoon egg saying “I got laid today!” is either sexist or misogynistic would immediately counter this charge. With respect to the later two charges, I think my friends and colleagues who know me would respectfully disagree. This is character assignation from afar without clear evidence of it—other than the fact that I disagree with my opponent.

I went back and looked at what I said: I don’t think that anything I said degrades my opponent on the basis of gender or because I think that men are superior to women. Instead I tried to counter each argument and understand what was being said. The main thing I’ve done is asked questions and sought to clarify underlying meanings. This is an approach I’ve used before with men and women alike and I believe that treat both genders equally when I choose to engage in this kind of deconstructive debate.

Secondly, I was only engaged in this style of debate because my opponent has shown little restraint in lashing out and calling things the way she sees them and without fear.

For me there are two memorable examples.

My opponent once announced that she would march into a shoe shop in Munich to tell the manager that their internal store advertising was “disgusting and misogynistic. Why would I ever buy anything from this store?I might go in and ask the manager if s/he knows how offensive that is in English.” I’ll grant that the advertisement in the store was crass and rude, but in no way was it misogynistic.

We previously engaged in a bizarre debate with the opening salvo, from my opponent’s end the statement that, “As for not thinking Germans are racists- the person who is surprised by this must be white, Western, Christian and male.” That debate was pretty rough; and she participated in it for awhile—until she got uncomfortable with the challenging questions I was posing and decided that the best venue was private email.

Honestly, email is a bad venue for this kind of debate: debate over racism, sexism, and misogyny must be in public. One of the greatest virtues the academy is that debate happens in public and all sides are educated. Debate behind closed doors is suspect and ultimately leads to poor conclusions and poor decisions. The only way I will engage in this debate is in public where everybody can see it and everybody can participate – even anonymous individuals.

(I might note that I allow anonymous comments and I approve everything but spam, even comments that make me uncomfortable and comments that I view as problematic—although a few times I have held tangential comments in order to not damage ongoing discussion, but in the worst case that was for four or five days. Just as I do not believe that requiring ID to enter a state capitol is legitimate, I do not believe ID should be required to participate in debate.)

Thirdly, I want to explicitly state that I am not a liar. I did receive an email tip about my opponent’s I Dream of Jeannie post—and the person has now publicly stated who they are. I resent the implication that I am a liar: I’m not. I got the email. I went to the blog. I investigated. I took the screen shot. It is not my fault that my opponent does not know how to properly read IP tracking software results—and perhaps by the time my opponent looked at the list, the person who emailed me had scrolled off the list.

(And for full disclosure, there are times I obfuscate details about individuals and situations – this is for their protection since these people have not volunteered (necessarily) to be on my blog, but rather I encounter them as a part of my daily life. For example: the cute cashier who I lusted over awhile back. I will also readily admit to using dramatic license to make some points, however at the core all facts are legitimate.)

Fourthly, the original core of the debate has been lost and I want to explicitly state how I feel about the subject of misogyny and an egg saying, “I got laid today!” As far as I can tell there are probably two mainstream responses to it. For some, including me, it is a cute double-entendre; a clever word play. For others, it’s crass, blunt, and bawdy. Either way, I still do not see how a cartoon egg saying this either reflects or is inspired by hatred of women.

I just do not see it.

And I’ve tried.

I actually wrote a long (unpublished) piece where I dissected the phrase “got laid” and “laid” – using the Urban Dictionary, and no matter which definition I looked at, I never found the suggestions to be misogynistic. Many of the proposed definitions were crass, blunt, and bawdy—but try as I might, not one of them seemed to suggest misogyny—and believe me, I’ve devoted far more time thinking about this than I ever could have imagined or anticipated.

(And I also digested the proposed definition of laid in Heather’s comments, and quite frankly, the sentence that was proposed for a crude sexual encounter, “If you come home laid, don’t say I didn’t warn you,” made no sense to me as a sentence suggesting a sexual encounter. I cannot help but feel that something went wrong in the cut and paste process. I also never knew that “laid” could refer to drug usage, something unmentioned in the Urban Dictionary, a venue where I would expect to find it mentioned.)

All that and I must thank Heather: Honestly, before I read your post, it never occurred to me that one could freeze eggs. I don’t often talk to people about eggs, but in my survey of a small handful of people, I asked them about freezing eggs and not one of them had ever done it or thought to do it, so I did learn something interesting and cool frozen. Thank you.

Fifthly, people who cry wolf when there isn’t a wolf need to be careful. When a legitimate wolf appears, nobody will respond. This applies to misogyny.

Sixth, and next to last, I want to address the concern my opponent raised when I used a screen shot showing sexist imagery from my opponent’s blog. This clearly falls under “fair use” and/or “fair practice”. I used the screen shot in the appropriate context of quotation in criticism or review, which is permissible under both US and EU law. Individuals writing blogs, appearing on television, or otherwise putting their materials in the public eye are putting themselves out there for quotation and citation. I would suggest that if somebody don’t want to be quoted and or cited, then blogging, podcasting, or otherwise exposing yourself (even via comments) on the Internet is probably not a good idea.

(As an aside, it is implied that I did not read the blog entry in question, but I would think that my statement, “in the context of what G was blogging about at the time, it’s funny,” would clearly and unequivocally suggest that I did, in fact, read the blog entry. I acknowledge that the picture is appropriate to the accompanying text.)

I also resent the implication that the fact I used a screen shot was equated to “male privilege”. Quoting/citing other people’s work in order to make a point is part of debate. Women do it. Men do it.

Finally, I do not regret bringing this issue into sharper relief. It needs to be discussed. Even in the course of this all too short debate, I’ve learned the definition of misogyny (and learned how to spell it correctly about 60% of the time on the first try), I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to decide if a cardboard cut out at my local supermarket was misogynistic or sexist, and I’ve discussed it with several friends in order to try and understand what I was missing or not understanding.

Although ultimately my central stance has not moved, my edges shifted: I am now better educated about misogyny and sexism than I was before I learned that eggs could be frozen.

2 comments to Misogyny Gone Wild, Part Three of ???

  • People who see anything but humor in the “I just got laid today” cartoon, have totally lost their way in life…..assuming they ever had a clue in the first place.

  • Based on a blog entry posted on 21 February 2010, “This is a personal blog”, I think it is pretty clear that the intended reader of this specific entry has read it, despite claiming that my blog would never be read again.

    It’s clear that there is a lack of understanding, maybe even some on my part, but I found it entertaining to find out that in her list of lenses (a metaphor provided by HeisseScheisse), she includes this as one explanation of her perspectives:

    Being a woman and dealing with the intrinsic sexism and misogyny of Western culture, where white male privilege is so pervasive that a white Christian male can tell a Jewish female that her views on sexism and racism are just hysteria and in her mind

    This one is squarely aimed at me. I might point out that I am not a white Christian male. I am a white atheist male. I’ve made that pretty clear on my blog over time.

    Further more I have never said her views on sexism and racism are just hysteria, I’ve asked her to provide evidence (and more specifically, I’ve ask her to justify why an egg saying “I got laid today!” is misogynistic), something required to support rampant claims of sexism and racism. If the evidence is strong, I’ll support it, if the evidence is weak, I’ll seek more information.

    I don’t see how any of this is white male privilege–and I have never, ever attacked her on the basis of her gender, religion, age, or any other intrinsic characteristic.

    My approach: “Please explain how this is misogynistic? I don’t understand.”

    I’d post an example of a sexist response to her thought-process, but I’m pretty certain that it would be misunderstood as coming from me and not being an example I’m making.

    The fascinating thing is that despite seeming open (“Am I the only person who hears that?”) and clearly being told that she is the only person hearing that, seems to only solidify her position.

    I feel sad about the whole situation – it’s unfortunate that anybody is so rigid as to not learn from others.