Saturday, August 30, 2008

If You Have to Ask.....

...then I'm not sure that I can explain, but I'll try.

I'm not going to waste your time trying to convince you that comments about Palin such as:

Okay, she's a whore who defeats all espectations.


There is nothing remotely attractive about Barracuda Girl.


NOT hot. ... Plastic. Barbie doll.

are sexist, unnacceptable, and hurt the cause - both yours and mine.

This isn't a feminism 101 post. I'm not going to hold you hand and explain that yes, gendered slurs are gendered slurs and that aiming them at awful people doesn't magically make them not gendered slurs.

But I can understand why some people who only barely passed FEM 101 might be a little confused about certain things. Such as why the following response to "I am striving to be gender neutral when criticizing Palin in general." is absolute fail:

I would like to.

Except that she's trying to help the GOP screw other women out of our rights.

The main problem with this argument is that it is a complete failure of logic - if one considers being "gender neutral" refraining from using sexist slurs. And since the second commentor was also responsible for several sexist comments, including the third one listed above, this does appear to be the case. This isn't the only type of behavior being shoved under the misnomer "being gender neutral" but it is the one where logic fails.

One can certainly criticize Palin for being hypocritical when it comes to women's rights. She's not quite Phyliss Schafly, but there are definitely commonalities between SP and PS, which means there is a lot we can call Palin on.

But to use sexist slurs to do so amounts to criticizing her for simply being a woman, which means complete FAIL for obvious reasons. Obvious as in feminism 101 obvious.

So what makes this slightly beyond feminism 101? Because it's not always obvious what consitutes a gendered slur. While the 'NOT hot" part of the comment is obviously wrong, "Barbie doll." is not always a purely sexist comment. One can give such insults a context that makes it clear that the woman being insulted is being insulted for something that she did, rather than being insulted simply for being a conventionally attractive woman.

One good example of this insult working might be comic fans complaining about their favorite superheroine being turned into a Barbie doll. While slip-ups can - and very often do - still happen in this context, there is at least a foundation for making it clear that the issue is not that she is female or even feminine, but that she is a generic, uninteresting, stock female character; that she lacks the seriousness and strength of personality to be a good superhero; or even just to make snarky comments about the homegeniality and over-sexualization of superheroines in general.

This? was not one of those cases. The only "context" is that Palin is female and pretty. Which means that "Barbie doll." is still a gendered insult in this context. Even though other complaints from the same commentor make it clear that there is substance to the ire directed at Palin, the potentially sexist insults that are said are not at all related to the complaints listed - making them simply gendered slurs. (Except perhaps for "plastic", but that one seems rather out of the blue and only related to the Barbie doll insult itself rather than any of the other complaints. it's possible that I'm missing some of the connections on that one, but, well, see next paragraph...)

Keep in mind that creating clear context is very, very hard. It's really easy to accidentaly turn what should be an insult about someone's unhealthy obsession with conformity to the modern, media driven definition of femininity, into simply another way of saying that girlie stuff sucks. Or add unintended sexist overtones to what was simply an attempt to call someone plastic or fake.

Your right to free speech certainlly allows you to say whatever the hell you want (although, be forewarned: not on my blog), but ask yourself if it makes sense to do so. I'm not going to try to tell you that you catch more flies with honey, because there is just so much that is so very wrong about that "advice." What I will say, however, is that being clear about what you mean is a not a bad thing.

If what you mean is that she's a bitch, then by all means, call her a bitch.

But if what you really mean is that she's a narrow-minded, abrasive, douche just like her running mate - but you are feeling the urge to call her a bitch because it sounds more powerful - you may want to rethink calling her a bitch. Because that's what bitch may mean to you, but to those of us that have been called bitch, usually just because we aren't willing to be doormats or fuckholes, it means something else entirely. And no, we aren't going to give you the benefit of the doubt. (especially when you also discuss how fuckable she is as well) Neither, btw, are the Republicans. Both the ones that will hypocritcally call you on your sexism and the ones that will applaud you for putting the bitch in her place.

Still not sure you are ready to go back out into "the real world" and not be an accidental sexist asshat? Then let's try another example of bad logic:

i think palin's hotness is the issue

if you imagine her as a boring looking dude, you get a fundie with a lightweight resume and a brewing influence scandal

but everybody is blinded by the giant cute

it'll wear off...

Palin's "hotness" - and gender - is very much an this context. It is not, however, an issue in and of itself. In other words, the issue is McCain's reasons for choosing her, not the fact that she is female and "hot." Statements like this are right on the money (aside from the fact that i hate "hot" as a stand in for sexy)....except when they are used to defend "debates" about whether the debaters would like to fuck her. (which this exactly what this comment was meant to be) It may be useful to debate if her looks are the right kind of looks to get McCain votes (assuming that's even possible). It is not useful, however to simply discuss whether or not you think she is pretty - especially as if this were the most important thing about her that one could possibly discuss.

Now that we've done the warm-ups, we are ready for the trickiest bit: the generic sex jokes. Which, by definition, ought to be non-gendered. Except that nothing is non-gendered about sex in our society. So on the odd chance that you weren't able to make the previous disctinctions yourself prior to coming here (and yet are still willing to listen to advice from me for some odd reason) I will leave you with this one last bit of wisdom:

Stay far, far, away from "generic" sex jokes. At least until this whole post seems like elementary logic to you.

If you do not, you may be the unwitting perpetrator of such idiotic and unfunny slurs as:

Does the governor do anything?

She once had a three-way with Michele Bachmann and a moose.

Seriously people, the only thing funny about that "joke" is the moose part*. And no, I wouldn't have an issue if it were Cheney, Bush, and McCain. (i still wouldn't find it funny, either, but wev) And yes, it makes a difference that these are women we are talking about. Not becuase it will always make a difference, but because you and the media are the ones making the two jokes mean two different things when you all obsess about how fuckable Palin/Hillary is, but whether you'd like to have a drink/dinner with Bush/Obama.

Now, go forth and bring McCain/Palin down! Only now working with the wondrous power of feminism, not against it.

(all quotes are from the thread for this post:

*actually, the crack about the moose having the best rack was the funniest part of the whole thread. but that's just cuz i'm a sucker for bad puns


Jack Norris said...

Considering that the first one can't spell "expectations" not to mention the fact that the sentence doesn't even make sense even if it did, and even if you disregarded the "whore" bit, I don't see that it deserves the respect implicit in a response.

Mickle said...

Well, since the "whore" part itself is exactly why I didn't bother responding to it....

Mickle said...

Sorry all, I accidentally rejected a comment from notintheface.

Thankfully, I still had a copy in my email:

"Ok, here's a non-sexist way:

Did McCain graduate from the "Wally West School of Vetting"? Judging from all the political crap alone that's surfaced on Governor Palin since her selection, I'd guess McCain's vetting process took a total of five or maybe even ten seconds."