Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mea Culpa

"What is wrong with women? I mean wrong. Physically. Spiritually. Something unnatural, something destructive, something that needs to be corrected. How did more than half the people in the world come out incorrectly? I have spent a good part of my life trying to do that math, and I’m no closer to a viable equation. And I have yet to find a culture that doesn’t buy into it."

With those words, in response to the video of Dua Khalil's violent death by stoning, Joss Whedon addresses not only the worldwide violence towards women, but the attitude of which that violence is a symptom. As I read his post, I found myself nodding not only because I recognized that pervasive misogynistic sentiment, but also because I realized that, to some extent, I had internalized it.

An outspoken feminist, I am ashamed to admit that at some level I buy into it all: I hate women, too.

How else can I interpret my exceptionalist attitude towards the women I discuss with my guy friends? Or the pleasure I feel when they discern that I'm "an exception," "one of the cool ones," "not like the others." How else to explain the intensity of my dislike for Paris Hilton and her ilk, and the schadenfreude I feel when she "gets what's coming to her." Is it still choice feminism if I deride the choices of other women to dress as they want, act as they want, say and do what they want? Or am I only pro-choice when it's a choice of which I approve, looking down at them from my height way up here on my pedestal.

Several months ago, Carolyn Hax, the venerable advice columnist for The Washington Post, gave a piece of advice to a young woman who had written in about her boorish male friends and her feeling of invisibility. Hax's answer spoke directly to me, to the asshole I can be: "Yes, being a cool chick among people who make that distinction is mistreatment, because the implication is that your coolness makes you an exception among women. That is misogyny."
Her answer, to be honest, was a condemnation of my silence, my complicity, and, yes, my cruel and depraved indifference to other women.
Part of that attitude, I think, stems for a mild gender dysphoria with which I've always struggled. No, I don't want to be a man; nor do I think I was born in the wrong body; but I have always felt more comfortable around guys, more at ease with my male friends than my female friends, less awkward and more natural with their mode of existence. I've finally reached a point in life where I'm comfortable with myself as a person. Perhaps it's time for me to become comfortable with myself as a woman. Maybe now, after this terrible admission, I can drop the judgmental bullshit, which serves to mask my own insecurity at my own inability to be feminine or girly enough, and finally become a real feminist; that is, someone who really believes that women are equal and whose actions and words support that belief.


michael said...

Oh sweet mother of Susan B. Anthony. It's OKAY to dislike other people. You do not have to be unwaveringly loyal to 3 and a half billion people just because you share hardware. You don't hate Paris Hilton because you've - and here I grit my teeth - internalized misogyny, you hate Paris Hilton because Paris Hilton is revolting. I reiterate: the vagina - ahem, the "sacred nurturing mother yoni" - is a body part. It has no more mystical significance than the elbow. Possession of one does not automatically make every choice someone makes immune from criticism.

Being "cool" doesn't make you an exception among women, it makes you an exception among people - women, like men, are by and large tedious, vacuous and a waste of time. I hate women. I also hate men. Am I a misogynist? No more than I'm a misanthrope. Should women get a free pass to be irritating because the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, saw fit to bestow them with mammary glands?

It's true: women are equal. So feel as free to mock and deride their foibles as you do with men. Only when everyone is despised equally can we all be free.

montana urban legend said...

I think the author is trying to look into the reasons for why she might dislike others, and if those aren't problematic reasons. The thing I try to keep in mind is that unintelligent men might do stupid things in unintelligent, if stereotypically male ways and that unintelligent women might do stupid things in unintelligent, if stereotypically female ways. The different sexes might also tend to have different strengths, as well, but the important thing I try to keep in mind is that intelligence is a bit transcendent in that manner - even if that doesn't obviate the fact that we should examine the reasons for why we might act judgmentally toward others.

Personally I don't think that nudity or parts of the body deserve condemnation any more than they deserve to be exalted, but I think that's both the paradox and the point. Paris Hilton is just playing up to a gender imbalance with regard to visual displays of sexuality because she likes the attention. It is not a kind of attention that speaks highly (if neutrally) either of the men who would grant it or of the silly women who would resort to taunting those kind of men with it. Hence my point about respectable human qualities being not necessarily gender-blind - although that could be the case - but of rising above the dynamic that lesser humans of both genders play a role in either perpetuating or, at least, over-emphasizing. And yes, I suppose the schadenfreude is part of that too, if only because it passes judgment on immature excesses not worth rewarding with further undue attention - at least not in a more evolved species.

Gigi said...


You've brought to light a paradox that I often think about myself: many a feminist believes that women have to act like men to prove that they're equals.

A true feminist should be feminine and find nothing wrong with it.

Jack's Shack said...

This is why I don't think that Hilary will win, women won't vote for her in large enough numbers.

Not because of policy, but because of cattiness.

Anonymous said...

I think Gigi meant to say that a feminist should find nothing wrong with femininity, not that a feminist should be feminine and find nothing wrong with it.

I don't have a problem with femininity, I have a problem with women who spend large chunks of time worrying about the sex lives of various celebrities, who spend more time thinking about clothes and makeup than they do about the War in Iraq, who secretly hate their supposed friends, and who then ask to be taken seriously.

I think Michael hit the nail on the head. "Am I a misogynist? No more than I'm a misanthrope." (I don't know about all that "Lord" and "infinite wisdom" stuff, though.)


harley said...

It is okay to dislike other people on their merits; it is not okay to judge women more harshly than men because they are women. I am not asserting that because we share, as you so delicately put it, a "sacred nurturing mother yoni," I have to be nicer or more caring toward women than I am toward men. Rather, I should at least judge women with the same leniency as I judge men; and I don't; *that's* internalized misogyny.

Montana Urban Legend hit the nail on the head. I am trying to figure out if my reason for disliking other women are not problematic reasons.

TR and I discussed the issue yesterday and he basically raised Michael's point: that people are idiots and that I hate idiots. But the issue is that I judge women more harshly than men and I excuses male idiocy more regularly than I excuse female idiocy. And I don't like that about myself. I should deride idiocy equally or not at all.

Gigi said...

Yes. Thanks for the clarification.

Liz said...

I think that it's easier as a woman to judge other women more harshly. Society, especially American society, expects women to be pretty, perky, fit, and outgoing. If you find yourself outside that realm of mass media femininity as I do, then it's easy to become more judgemental of those who do find themselves in that world because society judges you to be less feminine than women who fit the mold, so to speak. What I find hard not to judge is the body image distortion going on in Hollywood. For example, coninuing with your Paris Hilton example, I find women who are obsessed with their looks and, in particular, their body size and/or shape to be disgusting. It disgusts me far more than the same qualities in men because I am a woman who will never wear anything below a size 8. Admittedly, there are times when I consider myself to be less feminine because I don't blow dry my hair, wear trendy clothing, and refuse to spend a large portion of my time thinking about how I appear to others. I suppose that the point is that all women judge other women more harshly because we know what it is to be judged and are, in a way, subconsciously programmed by our mass-media Hollywood culture to pass along that judgement to other women. Great blog by the way :D