Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The New Misogyny

So, I've read a few pieces online and I've been neck deep in political activist blogs (I need to stop doing that. My blood pressure is in bad enough state is it is most of the time). I came across an interesting article the other day detailing what's called "the new misogyny", which is decidedly different from "the old misogyny."

I agree with the article, and I have my thoughts on it. First, my take away from the article on what "the old misogyny" was. Old misogyny was based on the misguided notion of "chivalry." Men treated women with respect - that was the rule of the day. If you didn't, then you were seen as something less than a man because you couldn't live up to the rule. At least, this is the way it was in public, and this is the vibe that the era gives off. Men never swore around women. It was bad taste. It was also every bit as misogynistic as what happens today, because it was "otherizing" women and lumped them in with children. Chivalry is paternalistic and degrading in it's own way, and truth be told, the world is a lot better off without it. People should treat people with respect regardless of gender, sex, or race. I'll hold the door open for you regardless whether you're a man, woman, both, black, white, or anything in between. Because it's the polite thing to do; especially if I can see you've got your hands full. And there's a lot of people who do that.

Things have changed. A lot. Women are (usually; there may still be a few... okay, probably a bunch of misguided dudes out there who think that they're being great guys by pretending you can't hold the door open) no longer given this "preferable" and extremely patronizing experience. And, I should state this is a good thing. The old misogyny put women on a pedestal. The old misogyny made women something less than human, but something more than human at the same time. The old misogyny is the root cause for the "Madonna/Whore" complex; either the woman was wroth putting on a pedestal or not, and if she wasn't, then you didn't hear from her. The old misogyny is no more preferable than the modern, new misogyny.

The new misogyny is the twisted, nightmarish spawn of the old misogyny and progress. This is what happens when progress stalls and the old ways resurface. No matter how "benign" the old misogyny appeared, it was still misogyny. It was still driven by a view that women are not entirely human; a dangerous view that others them in the same way that the modern misogyny does. The key way in which modern misogyny differs from the old misogyny is in how visceral, cruel, and hate-filled it happens to be; the modern culture of misogyny is cruel and sadistic, and delights in pushing women "in their place" with death threats of a violently sexual nature. Women are no longer put on a pedestal. You can't put something on a pedestal and then turn around and call it "cum dumpster". Not unless you're really fucked up, and I'm pretty sure more than a few of the modern misogynists are.

Modern misogyny is fueled by the Internet. It doesn't exist exclusively on the internet by a long shot - after all, Senator Jackass down in Dumbfuckistan (it happened in the south; I want to say Mississippi because I know it wasn't Texas or Florida and Mississippi is my next go-to state after that) recently compared women to farm animals and said they should carry still-born children like pigs and cows do. Bill Maher, himself a real piece of work, uses misogynistic language when referring to Republican women (in particular, two of my favorite targets Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin; if you can't see the difference between insulting them for being ignorant and dangerous and insulting them for being women, kindly shut your fucking face. This goes for you, Maher. In a sense, Maher is like the Liberal Rush Limbaugh; he says stupid and misogynistic things, and denies science where it fits him - the guy's an anti-vaxxer). Misogynistic language is extremely common in gaming communities. "Bitch" and "rape" are thrown around without a care as to what they mean, and who they may or may not hurt. The meanings are diluted, especially in the case of "rape", a word that really doesn't need to have that happen to it. When called "oh, well, bitch means 'female dog', too". It does. But that's not how you were using it, so your dictionary justification fails.

I suppose we may be reaching the point where 'bitch' is so watered down as to be a generic insult, like 'asshole' or 'dick', but that's not for me to decide. Everyone has their own tolerances, and nobody should have their tolerances pushed simply because you refuse to be polite and respect their boundaries.

The heart of modern misogyny is the nerd culture that drives the internet. This is why it appears in gaming culture (which is an extension of nerd culture, but not entirely). It's seeped into the mainstream culture, and combined with hold overs of the old misogyny - the idea that women should be othered and put on pedestals (so long as they deserve it), may have helped to create the twisted entity called "modern misogyny." Mainstream porn likely has a lot to do with it; mainstream porn is violently misogynistic (in fact, a lot of insults for women used by the modern misogynists you'll find come right out of  mainstream porn. Note I'm drawing a line between mainstream porn, which might as well be rape and power fantasy for White men, and indie, amateur, and 'off-beat' porn, which is not tailored towards White men but their own niche categories. All porn is not this monolithic evil, and indeed, you can have porn that respects people for being people. Mainstream porn, however, does not). However, off-beat, indie and amateur porn is not nearly as popular, and you have to look to find it. And it certainly doesn't get made into videos that get sold in stores (I wouldn't know personally. I consider you to be a fool if you have to go out and buy porn, unless you can give me a really good reason why you don't just dig online and find it for free, and the indie, artistic, erotic and artsy stuff is usually free; granted, it won't be geared to you as a white man - i.e., not a power fantasy - but that's fine by me. Sex should never be strictly about power anyway, it should be for consensual enjoyment; when sex is strictly for power, that's rape). A few people in the comments on the story I linked too pointed out that the misogynistic is right out of porn. It is, but it's not just porn that's driving it. There's a few things; porn, gaming culture, nerd culture in general, and the big one, anonymity.

GIFT is a theory that suggests people become assholes online because they have anonymity and an audience. I don't think there's anything to GIFT; I have anonymity, and I have an audience, but I'm only an asshole to people who deserve it (usually individuals who put others in danger through their own belligerent ignorance or public figures who drive me up the wall because of how fucking stupid they are and how fucking stupid the crowd of people they appeal to are). There's a lot of people who have anonymity and are not assholes. No, the people who who are assholes while anonymous are people who are assholes in real life, too. Nothing changes, except for the fact that they can act like assholes more freely, because they're not within arm's reach of the people they're insulting and threatening. They were always bullies; anonymity gives them free reign. That's what drives the modern misogynists; they're bullies. They think they hid behind anonymity but they don't; these sort of people are assholes in real life, and there's not enough Ax body-spray on the planet to mask that. I've met more moral sociopaths than some of the trolls online (one of whom admitted to me he was a sociopath - he was a coworker of mine and former military guy, who I had a lot of respect for because he knew his stuff and was a decent guy, he just didn't have any empathy - and the other I suspected but was never very sure of). When called, they like to hide behind "it's the internet, and you shouldn't take anything seriously on the internet," which is bullshit and an excellent way to silence people who you disagree with.

I'm tempted to say that there really isn't anything new about the "new misogyny." Misogyny is misogyny and it's been a round since the founding of civilization, if not before that. However, the "new misogyny" is certainly more visceral and in-your-face than any other type of misogyny in the past. The way that most men react when someone brings up the topic of rape and misogyny itself is very telling; "not all men are like that!". Really, it's derailing 101; replace "men" with "whites" or "Christians" and you have an excellent way of dismissing someone's experiences. "I'm not like that at all!" Good for you sunshine. If you're not, why do you feel the need to point it out and defend the people who are by derailing the entire argument?

So to round this out, it's a really good an thought provoking article, and points out how misogyny today is different from the misogyny of yesteryear. And it's high time that we picked up the feminist torch left from the fighters for equality all those years ago and push back against the modern misogynists. Some are doing just that. Keep in mind that feminism means freedom for everyone; by liberating the group that's repressed, you free the oppressing group, as well. I'm reminded of a political cartoon I saw: there was a slave owner, and he was standing on the back of a Black slave, and both were in a hole the slave was digging. Said black slave was in a hole, but so was the save owner. And so long as the slave owner kept his heel on the black slave, neither of them were getting out of that hole; if the slave owner lifted his heel, he could get out of the hole - but then, the slave would get out, too. So long as the slave was a slave, the owner was trapped in the hole with him. That can be the same story for any group; men are expected to act a certain way and have certain things a patriarchy demands of them, even if not all men want to live up the notion of "masculinity." So long as we keep feminism from succeeding in overthrowing the patriarchy, both men and women will be trapped in this hole and won't be going anywhere anytime soon.

1 comment:

  1. Until white feminists challenge their racism and ownership of feminism, listen to women of color and make their concerns our own, we aren't going anywhere. Why have women not had sufficient strength in numbers to keep the illusion that men control the world without free and under-rewarded, and default labor from women? Because we are divided against ourselves.